The sun broke over the mountain peak and shone down through the mist into the valley. A pine sapling squinted and yawned. The towering timber beside the sapling shifted a broad limb to shield the infant from the bright rays. The sapling turned to find the source of the shadow and found his mother smiling down at him.
“Hello, little one. Merry Christmas.”
“Hello, Mama! What is Christmas?”
“It is a very special day. One year ago today, a beautiful boy was sent to us from our Father. The boy will grow to be a great king and save the world. His birthday is Christmas Day.”
“So I have the same birthday as that boy?”
“Yes. It is a very special day. And you are the Father’s special gift to me.”
“Mama, why did he send me here?”
“Our Father sent each of us here for a purpose. We are here to fulfill His plan.”
“Some of us are here just to be the forest. Some of us will give shelter to those who live here. Some will be used by men to build wonderful things like homes and ships.”
“What will I be, Mama?”
“Only Father knows. And only He can tell you. But He knew you before you were a cone and before you fell from my branches. You have a purpose in His plan, and I know your path will be beautiful.”
Each day, the sun climbed over the mountains to the east and raced across the sky over the forest. And with each passing of the sun, the sapling grew taller and stronger. One morning, the mist in the valley was darker than usual. The sun was hidden behind dark skies. The young tree saw animals racing past him and his siblings to the far end of the valley. The air became thick and smelly. Then the young tree saw orange lights dancing around his roots. Soon the lights grew taller and climbed his trunk. The tree couldn’t see past the dancing lights, and the roaring sounds in the forest drowned out his cries for help.
When the dancing lights and dark air were finally gone, the little tree called out for his mother. But he heard no answer. He called for his brothers and sisters. But he heard no answer. The ground around his roots was black. The trees and shrubs that once stood before him in the valley were gone. Only small stumps and charred sticks remained.
For many weeks, the small tree stood alone on the hillside. Then the snows came, and the tree thanked the Father for the long sleep. He hoped that when he awoke, he’d find his family again. But when he opened his eyes to the song of the bird on his branch, he was still alone.
As the days went by, new grass broke through the dark earth. New saplings sprouted across the valley floor. The hillside was covered in new life. But the young tree still felt lonely. So, he put all his energy into his branches. He grew as many cones as he could grow. In the fall, those cones fell and rolled across the hillside. After a few weeks, the young pine tree had some new family members around him, and he smiled. Each spring, the hillside grew more and more crowded with the Christmas Tree’s family. The sun poured energy into the trees, helping the new forest to grow tall. The Christmas Tree grew to stand the tallest and felt pride watching over the younger pines. Each time a new sapling awoke in the forest, the Christmas Tree would tell the same story his Mama told him.
Thirty springs later, men came to the valley wearing helmets and carrying sticks with sharp blades. The Christmas Tree watched as they used the sticks to knock down some of the trees around him. Then several men stood at his feet and started swinging their sticks at him. The sharp blades hurt, and with each strike, the Christmas Tree shed a tear that ran down his trunk as sap.
But the Christmas Tree was not sad. He was not frightened. Even though it hurt when he fell, the Christmas Tree knew he was finally going to fulfill his purpose in Father’s plan. He closed his eyes and did not complain when the men used the sticks to take off his branches. He did not cry when they dragged him through the valley toward the town. And he worked very hard to stay awake while they trimmed down his mighty trunk until only the heartwood was left. He was proud of how he looked as a heartwood beam. He was straight and strong. The grain of his body was smooth and beautiful.
The men in the helmets carried the Christmas Tree, now only a heartwood beam, and dropped him on the ground at the feet of a man. Instead of a helmet, the man wore thorny branches around his head. That man lifted the Christmas Tree gently on one end and placed it on his shoulder. Then the man carried the Christmas Tree through the town, while the crowds around them shouted and cheered. The Christmas Tree believed he was part of a great parade.
The man dragged the Christmas Tree up a hill until he reached the top. There, the man carefully placed the tree on the ground and gently stroked the beautiful wood. Then the men with helmets pushed the kind man down on top of the Christmas Tree and began driving nails through his hands and feet and into the beautiful wood.
The Christmas Tree tried to scream and cry out, but the men could not hear him. He tried to close his eyes so that he could not see the pain the man suffered, but he still felt the nails and heard the wails of agony from the gentle man.
“Mama, what is happening?” the Christmas Tree cried. But he heard no answer.
“Father, what terrible thing is happening to me and to this kind man? What purpose could this evil act hold in your plan?” But he heard no answer.
“I am supposed to be a beautiful thing! You are making a mistake! Please stop!” But the men in the helmets did not stop.
The Christmas Tree suffered with the kind man on the hilltop for six hours before they both finally found peace and closed their eyes.
When the Christmas Tree opened his eyes again, he found himself standing tall and strong on a hillside overlooking a valley more beautiful than he’d ever seen. His trunk was restored. His branches reached out far around him. He saw his mother standing next to him smiling. Then he heard a voice and saw a shining figure standing before him.
“Do you like your new valley?”
“I like it very much. But where am I? And how did I get here?”
“You are in our Father’s house now. He asked me to come here and be sure you were happy.”
“I am very happy. But I saw terrible things. Mama promised me that Father sent me for a purpose. I did not like what I became. I did not like what they made me do.”
“But Christmas Tree, you were a great gift for the world. Father sent you to the valley for the most important task of all trees in all of creation. You were sent to hold our Father’s Son up on that hillside for the world to see. You did very well.”
“But they hurt that man. They did awful things to him and to me.”
“They did what the Father sent them to do. They fulfilled their purpose, just as you fulfilled yours. And now you can live here forever with your family knowing that our Father is very proud of you. And because of your great deed, the world has been saved.”
Then the Christmas Tree smiled at the light and at his Mama. He had been a gift to his mother. He had been a gift for the world. And now the Father had given him the great gift of love and life. And now every day could be Christmas Day for the Christmas Tree and all the world.