I wrote this story in December, 1986, as a college student working an overnight shift where my main responsibility was to stay awake in case something happened. This story came to me full-blown, like a bolt from heaven, and I have always thought of it as my Christmas present from God. I’ve re-written it several times over the years, but always liked the original the best, and now I’d like to share it with you. If you like it, or know somebody who would, invite them to come read it here. Merry Christmas!
The First Christmas Tree
A smile formed on Tommy’s mother’s face as his wide brown eyes looked to her from the darkness of his bedroom. She leaned in a bit farther, the hallway light casting a halo around her body.
“You’re not asleep,” she pointed out.
“Nope,” he agreed.
“Somethin’ wrong?” She asked, entering the room, and pausing to turn on the choo-choo nightlight as she did.
“No. Mom, would you tell me a story? Please?”
“A story? What kind of a story?”
“A Christmas story.”
“Ohhhh.” Christmas. The whole day had been full of Christmas preparations, she reflected as she seated herself on her son’s bed and gazed out the window at the snowswept yard. The dusty boxes had been unpacked and the year-round decorations taken down to be replaced by paper poinsettias, Santa faces, the Nativity scene, and the tree, of course. The tree. Her eyes fell upon the fir tree in the yard, its branches tossing in the cold night wind, and she remembered the story she’d first heard as a girl only a little older than Tommy, in a different bedroom in the same house, so many years ago. Still watching the tree outside, she took up the story, remembering it as if she’d heard it only yesterday, and hearing, not her own voice, but her grandmother’s, relating the much-loved words.
“Once upon a time many, many years ago, (how many? More than you can count, love,) there was a great forest on the outskirts of a city. One day, a beautiful, enormous star appeared above the city. This was so amazing that even the trees paused in their great, slow thoughts to wonder at the meaning of it. The taller trees pulled back their branches to let the smaller trees gaze upon the star and one young fir, as the starlight shone upon him, felt its glow sink right into his tender wooden heart.
“In the weeks that passed, many of the forest animals and trees decided they knew the star meant one thing or another, or nothing at all, and would argue about it. As they grew used to its presences, most forgot about it altogether. But not the little fir. He, of all the trees and animals in the forest, still wondered at the star. When others found out about his continuing awe, they looked down upon him and sighed. They reminded him that he was only a very ordinary young tree, and had no business wondering about stars and such things. But the little fir knew deep inside that the star meant something important and he stood at attention, day and night, joyfully waiting for “IT.”
“One night not long afterward, the wind was strangely quiet, and the air felt tingly. While others mused that a storm must be coming on, the little tree stood a little straighter, sure that this night would reveal to the world the meaning of the star. The night wore on and a small group of shepherds passed through the forest, talking to each other in hushed but excited voices. A small rabbit nestled by the young fir’s trunk lifted an ear curiously and called out to a lamb being carried by one of the shepherds in creature talk to find out the cause of the excitement. The lamb replied that a sky full of angels had appeared to them to announce that the God of All had sent his son, the Prince of Peace, to be savior to the world. Furthermore, the lamb said the savior had come to the earth that night in the form of a human baby, and was now lying in a stable on the outskirts of the city.
“Most of the great trees and forest creatures were filled with mirth by the lamb’s unbelievable story of a savior in a stable. The little fir tree, however, knew to the tips of his needles that this was what he had been waiting for, that the miracle had arrived. With all his heart he made one prayerful wish, “Oh, if only I could see this baby!”
An angel appeared next to the young fir. “You wish to see the Prince?” the angel whispered.
“Oh, yes! We do!” cried the little tree.
The angel laughed, “Well then, you are all invited!” and with a wave of an arm, the angel disappeared. Instantly, the entire forest was freed from the earth and with a mighty whoosh was swept off to the stable under the star. The little fir tried to keep up but found he had a hard time. In the back of his mind he remembered how ordinary the others kept telling him he was. He continued going the best that he could, but arrived among the last of the trees. His poor heart nearly broke when he saw all the others ahead of him, but he straightened his trunk and fluffed out his branches, and prepared to wait. He wondered if there would be any way that he would get to the front before the magic was over.
Suddenly the angel reappeared. “Where have you been?” the angel cried, “We’ve all been waiting for you!”
“M-m-me?” stammered the tree.
“Oh little tree, you are the most faithful of them all!” and with a laugh and a wave of a wing, stars dove from the heavens to snuggle in the young fir’s branches and moonbeams hurried close to dance on his boughs. This is how the young fir appeared to the baby Prince, who gazed upon him with eyes full of love. The young fir’s heart swelled with such happiness that he wept resin tears of joy, which fell to the floor and hardened instantly into amber beads. A shepherd, seeing them, bowed to the young fir, then knelt and scooped the beads up and gave them to the holy child’s blessed young mother, who nodded her thanks to the little tree.
“The young fir lived in joy for the rest of his long life, but the story does not end there. The shepherds remembered the role a small tree played that holy night, and passed the story on. And that, some say, is why we have Christmas trees and decorate them, and why gifts are found beneath them on Christmas morning.”
Tommy’s mother’s voice trailed off as she looked down at her sleeping son. She smiled and wondered how long he had been out, and how much of the story she had shared only with herself. Then, carefully, she slipped from the room and pulled the door silently shut.