My Christmas tree is lopsided by nature. It has some serious gaps. Branches stick out here and there. And it seems that every year I forget that Fraser firs relax and lower their branches as they adapt to our home’s indoor climate. So the ornaments hanging on my tree’s lowest branches are now grazing the floor.
I’m neither complaining nor upset. These anomalies make my tree all the more endearing to me.
In 1981 Woman’s Day magazine reprinted a story from Guidepost’s Family Christmas Book. Written by Dick Schneider, it told the story of an evergreen tree growing in a small kingdom in Europe. The tree believed it had a chance to win the most perfect tree contest; the prize was reigning in honor in the palace hall for everyone to admire.
Each evergreen vied for this honor. They kept their branches closed tightly so the sleet and snow wouldn’t cause issues with their perfection. On windy days they opened their branches so the breezes could pass through without causing harm.
But the star of the story took pity on various animals and birds as the winter weather got progressively worse. It lowered its bottom branches to protect a rabbit being chased by dogs. The tree opened its top branches to shelter a wren. During a windy gale, our tree with a heart protectively closed its branches around a fawn that had strayed from its mother.
So what had been absolute perfection was now a sorry sight. The bottom branches drooped. Gaps had been opened and would not close. The trunk leaned a little to the left. Broken branches oozed pine gum.
In fact, when the Queen arrived on her sleigh to choose the most perfect tree, she was horrified to see this example. She considered having it cut down and burned immediately. But then…she noticed the feathers sticking out from the upper branches and the tracks of the various animals that had found shelter and protection from the tree, and her heart melted with understanding.
When the Queen chose the damaged tree as the most perfect, everyone in the kingdom agreed. “For in looking at its gnarled and worn branches, many saw the protecting arm of their father, others the comforting bosom of a mother, and some, as did the Queen, saw the love of Christ expressed on earth.”
And that’s why real Christmas trees, including mine, are not perfect.
Trees serve as a role model for us. They remind us to open ourselves to the world, to serve others, to be the one that helps when others say no.
The last sentence of the original story sums it up beautifully: “…the trees have learned that the scars suffered for the sake of others make one most beautiful in the eyes of God.”