Before we moved to New Mexico, we had enough Christmas decorations to open a rather large Christmas store. Scott and I both love Christmas, with the lights and the decorations, and the sheer fun of the secular side of things. When we moved, we gave away most of our things, because we decided it was time to ‘downsize’ and make things a little more simple. We went through what we had, kept a lot of his mother’s things and things that meant a something to us, and things we just couldn’t part with. While decorating our Christmas tree, this year, I found an ornament I’d not seen before. It was one of those ‘Hallmark Keepsake Ornaments” depicting “The Story of the Three Trees.” Now, having taught elementary school for a zillion years, and having been an English major with an emphasis on Children’s literature, I’m pretty well acquainted with a great number of folktales from all over the world. This one, however, I seem to have missed. As I read it, several scriptures popped into my head, but the strongest of these were:
“I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
5 “Blessed are the humble, for they shall inherit the earth. 6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled. 7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. 8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
And having said as so, here is the story:
The Three Trees
Once upon a mountain top, three little trees stood and dreamed of what they wanted to become when they grew up. The first little tree looked up at the stars and said: ” I want to hold treasure. I want to be covered with gold and filled with precious stones. I’ll be the most beautiful treasure chest in the world!” The second little tree looked out at the small stream trickling by on it’s way to the ocean. ” I want to be traveling mighty waters and carrying powerful kings. I’ll be the strongest ship in the world! The third little tree looked down into the valley below where busy men and women worked in a busy town. I don’t want to leave the mountain top at all. I want to grow so tall that when people stop to look at me they’ll raise their eyes to heaven and think of God. I will be the tallest tree in the world.
Years, passed. The rain came, the sun shone and the little trees grew tall. One day three wood cutters climbed the mountain. The first wood cutter looked at the first tree and said, “This tree is beautiful. It is perfect for me.” With a swoop of his shining ax, the first tree fell. “Now I shall make a beautiful chest, I shall hold wonderful treasure!” the first tree said.
The second wood cutter looked at the second tree and said, “This tree is strong. It’s perfect for me.” With a swoop of his shining ax, the second tree fell. “Now I shall sail mighty waters!” thought the second tree. ” I shall be a strong ship for mighty kings!”
The third tree felt her heart sink when the last wood cutter looked her way. She stood straight and tall and pointed bravely to heaven. But the wood cutter never even looked up. “Any kind of tree will do for me.” He muttered. With a swoop of his shining ax, the third tree fell.
The first tree rejoiced when the wood cutter brought her to a carpenter’s shop. But the carpenter fashioned the tree into a feed box for animals. The once beautiful tree was not covered with gold, or treasure. She was coated with saw dust and filled with hay for hungry farm animals.
The second tree smiled when the wood cutter took her to a shipyard, but no mighty sailing ship was made that day. Instead the once strong tree was hammered and awed into a simple fishing boat. She was too small and too weak to sail to an ocean, or even a river, instead she was taken to a little lake.
The third tree was confused when the wood cutter cut her into strong beams and left her in a lumberyard. “What happened?” The once tall tree wondered. ” All I ever wanted was to stay on the mountain top and point to God…”
Many days and nights passed. The three trees nearly forgot their dreams. But one night, golden starlight poured over the first tree as a young woman placed her newborn baby in the feed box. “I wish I could make a cradle for him.” Her husband whispered. The mother squeezed his hand and smiled as the starlight shone on the smooth and sturdy wood. ” This manger is beautiful.” She said. And suddenly the first tree knew he was holding the greatest treasure in the world.
One evening a tired traveler and his friends crowded into the old fishing boat. The traveler fell asleep as the second tree quietly sailed out into the lake. Soon a thundering and a thrashing storm arose. The little tree shuddered. She new she did not have the strength to carry so many passengers safely through the wind and the rain. The tired man awoke. He stood up, stretched out his hand, and said, “Peace.” The storm stopped as quickly as it had begun. And suddenly the second tree knew he was carrying the king of heaven and earth.
One Friday morning, the third tree was startled when her beams were yanked from the forgotten wood pile. She flinched as she was carried through an angry jeering crowd. She shuddered when soldiers nailed a man’s hand to her. She felt ugly and harsh and cruel. But on Sunday morning, when the sun rose and the earth trembled with joy beneath her, the third tree knew that God’s love had changed everything. It had made the third tree strong. And every time people thought of the third tree, they would think of God. That was better than being the tallest tree in the world.
The next time you feel down because you didn’t get what you wanted, sit tight and be happy because God is thinking of something better to give you.
May all of you have a blessed second week of Advent!