The 12 days of Christmas: Day 9

The 12 Days of Christmas: Day 8
December 20, 2012
The 12 days of Christmas: Day 10
December 22, 2012
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The 12 days of Christmas: Day 9

Here we are, day 9 of our 12 days of Christmas.  Do you know what meals you’re having for Christmas eve and Christmas day??

Treat/gift idea: tree candy

Story:

Why Christmas
Trees Aren’t Perfect

They say that if you creep into an evergreen forest late at
night you can hear the trees talking. If you listen very carefully to the
whisper of the wind, you can hear the older pines telling the younger ones why
they will never be perfect. They will always have a bent branch here, a gap
there…

But long ago, all evergreen trees were perfect. Each one took special pride in branches that sloped
smoothly down from pointed top to evenly shaped skirt. This was especially true
in a small kingdom far beyond the Carpathian Mountains in Europe. Here the
evergreen trees were the most beautiful of all. For here the sun shone just
right, not too hot, not too dim. Here the rain fell just enough o keep the
ground moist and soft so no tree went thirsty. And here the snow fell gently
day after day to keep every branch fresh and green.

Each year as Christmas approached, the Queen’s woodsmen would
search the royal evergreen forest for the most perfect, most beautiful tree.
The one fortunate enough to be chosen would be cut on the first Saturday of
Advent. It would then be carefully carried to the castle and set up in the
center of the great hall. There it reigned in honor for all the Christmas
celebrations.

Out in the hushed forest every evergreen hoped for this
honor. Each tree tried to grow its branches and needles to perfection. All of
them strained to have the best form and appearance.

            One tree, Small Pine, grew near the edge of
the forest and promised to be the most beautiful of all. As a seedling it had
listened carefully to the older trees who knew what was best for young
saplings. And it had tried so very hard to grow just right. As a result,
everything about Small Pine, from its deep green color to the curling tip of
its evenly spaced branches, was perfect.

            It
had, in fact, already overheard jealous whispers from the other trees. But it
paid them no mind. Small Pine knew that if one did one’s very best, what anyone
else said didn’t matter.

            One cold night when a bright full moon
glittered on the crusty snow, a little gray rabbit came hopping as fast as he
could into the grove of evergreens. The rabbit’s furry sides heaved in panic.
From beyond the hill came the howling of wild dogs in the thrill of the hunt.
The bunny, his eyes wide with fright, frantically searched for cover. But the
dark, cold trees lifted their branches artfully from the snow and frowned. They
did not like this interruption of their quiet evening when growing was at its
best.

            Faster and faster the rabbit circled as the
howling of the dogs sounded louder and louder. Small Pine’s heart shuddered.
When the terrified rabbit ran near, Small Pine dipped its lower branches down,
down, down to the snow. And in that instant before the wild dogs broke into the
grove, the rabbit slipped under Small Pine’s evergreen screen. He huddled
safely among the comforting branches while the dogs galloped by and disappeared
into the forest.

            In the morning the rabbit went home to his
burrow, and Small Pine tried to lift its lower branches back up to their proper
height. It strained and struggled, but the branches had been pressed down too
long through the night. Oh well,
Small Pine thought, no matter.
Perhaps the woodsmen wouldn’t notice a few uneven branches near the ground in a
tree so beautiful.

            Several days later a terrible blizzard
lashed the land. No one remembered ever having so much wind and snow. Villagers
slammed their shutters tight while birds and animals huddled in their nests and
dens. A brown mother wren had become lost in the storm. With feathers so wet
she could barely fly, she went from one large evergreen to another looking for
shelter. But each tree she approached feared the wren would ruin its perfect
shape and clenched its branches tight, like a fist.

            Finally, the exhausted wren fluttered
toward Small Pine. Once more Small Pine’s heart opened and so did its branches.
The mother wren nestled on a branch near the top, secure at last. But when the
storm ended and the bird had flown away, Small Pine could not move its top
branches back into their perfect shape. In them would be a gap evermore.

            Days passed and winter deepened. The packed
snow had frozen so hard that the deer in the forest could not reach the tender
ground moss, which they ate to survive. Only the older, stronger deer could dig
through the icy snow with their hooves. One little fawn had wandered away from
his mother. Now he was starving. He inched into the pine grove and noticed the
soft, tender evergreen tips. He tried to nibble on them, but every tree quickly
withdrew its needles so the tiny deer teeth couldn’t chew them. Thin and weak,
he staggered against Small Pine. Pity filled the tree’s heart and it stretched
out its soft needles for the starving fawn to eat. But alas, when the deer was
strong enough to scamper away, Small Pine’s branches looked very ragged.

            Small Pine wilted in sorrow. It could hear
what the larger, still-perfect trees were saying about how bad it looked. A
tear of pine gum oozed from the tip of a branch. Small Pine knew it could never
hope for the honor of being the Queen’s Christmas tree. Lost in despair, Small
Pine did not see the good Queen come with the woodsmen into the forest. It was
the first Saturday of Advent, and she had come to choose the finest tree
herself because this was a special celebration year in the history of her
kingdom.

            As the royal sleigh, drawn by two white
horses, slowly passed through the forest, her careful eye scanned the
evergreens. Each one was hoping to be the royal choice. When the Queen saw
Small Pine, a flush of anger filled her. How could such an ugly tree with so
many drooping branches and gaps be allowed in the royal forest? She decided to
have a woodsman cut it to throw away and nodded for the sleigh to drive on. But
then… she raised her hand for the sleigh to stop and glanced back at the
forlorn little pine. She noticed the tracks of small animals under its uneven
needles. She saw a wren’s feather caught in its branches. And, as she studied
the gaping hole in its side and its ragged shape, understanding filled her
heart. “This is the one,” she said, and pointed to Small Pine. The woodsmen
gasped, but they did as the Queen directed.

            To the astonishment of all the evergreens
in the forest, Small Pine was carried away to the castle. There it was
decorated with shimmering silver stars and golden angels, which sparkled and
flashed in the light of thousands of glowing candles. On Christmas Day a huge
Yule log blazed in the fireplace at the end of the great hall. While orange
flames chuckled and crackled, the Queen’s family and all the villagers danced
and sang together around Small Pine. And everyone who danced and sang around it
said that Small Pine was the finest Christmas tree yet. For in looking at its
drooping, nibbled branches, they saw the protecting arm of their father or the
comforting lap of a mother. And some, like the wise Queen, saw the love of
Christ expressed on earth.

            So if you walk among evergreens today, you
will find, along with rabbits, birds, and other happy living things, many trees
like Small Pine. You will see a drooping limb, which gives cover, a gap that
offers a warm resting place, or branches ragged from feeding hungry animals.
For, as have many of us, the trees have learned that living for the sake of
others makes us the most beautiful in the eyes of God.

           

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