It was the biggest and tallest tree on the lot, the branches stretching beyond the length of its shadow; and the thick stem telling the story of an abundant life beside rivers and streams. Its pure fragrance was reminiscent of raw earth after the rain.
“Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree,” I hummed the popular tune. “However green your branches….” It was the one I’d been searching for, the tree I’d surprise Marion with for our first Christmas together. And I wanted it to be perfect for her.
I searched about me eagerly. Others were circling the lot looking for their own perfect tree. A young couple stopped to study a tall and lanky one with a tip that leaned on its side. The star that would top it would compete with gravity.
I grabbed hold of one of the branches of the big and tall tree and tested the firmness of its bristles. It didn’t give way under the pressure. I was certain Marion had never seen a stronger tree. She’d told me on a few occasions that her family had never celebrated Christmas when she was a child. And the trees she’d seen were always from afar or on television.
An elderly couple stopped to observe my tree. They debated amongst themselves as they tried to decide on how they felt about it. “It’s too big for our modest home.” The man grunted and stroked his chin.
“What about when you grew up and got your own place?” I’d asked Marion. “You didn’t get a Christmas tree then?”
She’d shaken her head sullenly. “By then I just thought it wasn’t important.” Then turning away from my incredulous stare, she’d added, “Not every family is like yours, John. Some don’t gather around some tree talking about the baby Jesus.”
Reluctantly, I turned away from the tree to find its merchant. He was a short man with long whiskers and a stained apron. “My friend,” he said smilingly. “How can I help you?”
“I want to by that tree.” Even from some feet away it was impossible to miss. “And I’d like top take it home with me.”
The whiskered vendor nodded with a grunt. “I wish I could give it to you. But it is not for sale. I am sorry.”
My shoulders drooped. How was I going to make Christmas special for my skeptical wife without that tree? How was I going to convince her that families could gather around the tree to talk about our Savior?
I explained to the merchant my predicament in hopes that he would change his mind.
“My Friend,” he said pleasantly, “Christmas is not about the size of the tree. It is about the Love you share with your wife. The tree is just an ornament.”
He was right. I was trying to teach my wife a lesson but perhaps I’m the one who needed it. I nodded toward the man and was about to walk away.
“Look, I will give it to you with the love of Jesus.”
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