The Ugliest Christmas Tree

 In Stories

A long time ago when the trees of the forest were first being used to decorate people’s homes for the Christmas season, there was a group of young, blue spruce trees who lived in one special area of the forest.

They were eager to take part in the Christmas celebrations. They knew that Christmas was a fun and merry time when the people of the region decorated the trees so that they looked more beautiful than ever before. The young trees loved all the attention they received especially from the children.

It was known throughout the kingdom of the forest that the most radiant, lovely blue spruce trees the world has ever seen grew in this one special part of the woods. All the adult trees were proud of their yearling trees, soon to adorn the homes of the people who celebrated the birth of Jesus.

These trees were so special and so perfectly formed that they weren’t cut down by the people. Instead, they were dug up, roots and all, by the local townspeople and then later planted back into the forest. The people felt that such beautiful trees must never be cut, thrown away or burnt in fireplaces. They should be replanted in the forest so that their beauty might be enjoyed forever.

The trees also realized that it was their beauty that made them special to the people, for it gave the trees a sense of warmth and self-esteem. The trees were proud that they were honored and revered by the people. But they were very worried over one tall, skinny tree. Its branches were too far apart to be beautiful and its pine needles were all discolored and crooked. Its bark was streaked with an ugly yellow and white substance that oozed out of its main trunk. Apparently the ugly tree had not enough vitamins and minerals in its soil when it was a seedling which caused the young tree to suffer and become ugly in appearance.

While it wasn’t straight and beautiful with full foliage, it was very tall and sturdy, but all the other trees saw only its ugliness. To be honest, this poor skinny tree was the ugliest tree in this part of the forest;  all the other trees just soon ignored the big, gamely tree.

The big, ugly tree suffered the rebukes and teasing of the other young trees, yet he endured because of the caring and compassion of his mother. It was her belief in him and her love that filled that young tree’s heart.  She nurtured her tall, hapless boy in ways that only love could provide.

Even though he was scorned and teased and sometimes cruelly mocked for his appearance, it made no difference to his mother, who, as every mother before her knew, the greatest beauty of all is in the heart. She felt that one day he would do great things; she didn’t know what or when, but she sensed it deep within her roots. She knew that her love would make his roots grow deep and strong so that it would be an anchor in the tough times that would surely lie ahead.

The tall, ugly tree led a happy and contented childhood within the bounds of his mother’s love and care. It was only natural that he was growing dependent upon her because he so desperately sought and needed the recognition and support of the other young trees. He had sensed that would never happen as long as there were misconceptions and prejudices in the world.

Then one day as the young, ugly tree was basking in the warmth of the sun; he felt a chilling wind at his roots and he looked down and his mother was leaning and drooping toward one side. He became very frightened, for he had never seen his mother do this before. He reached down to straighten her back up but she could not move. The young, ugly tree remembered what his mother once told him, that all trees eventually go back to their origins and the Creator who gave them life. His mother seemed peaceful and strangely content, and the young tree knew that it was her time to journey on toward a new forest.

He held her until she stopped swaying and gently laid her on the soft earth of the forest floor below. A strong wind blew and scattered his mother’s pine needles and cones all over the forest where one day new life would begin again.

Though his first thought was that he would be lost without her, a calming moment came over him. He remembered that his mother’s love, care, and nurture would always be with him in his memory. This gave him comfort and strength to face whatever lay ahead for him.

The years passed by, some slow, some fast, but all very painfulfor the ugly tree because he saw all the other trees being picked for the celebration of Christmas, while he was never chosen. He was so very lonely and sad, for, he too wanted to be decorated with popcorn, lights, tinsel and sprinkled with candy  canes, but no one came.

Slowly without realizing it, the ugly tree grew and grew and grew. Not only did he grow tall but his long, crooked branches grew out until they covered the other trees below him. The ugly tree really protected the rest of the trees in this section of the forest against the wind, the snow, the sleet, and most importantly, the lighting storms.  None of these misfortunes stopped his dream of wanting to become a Christmas tree, but no one ever picked him.

Then one day a wise, old owl came and sat upon his branches while the tree was mourning the fact that he had never been picked to be a Christmas tree.  The owl overheard the tree’s thoughts and said to him, “You are much more important than just to be some decoration for somebody’s home. You are the guardian of this part of the forest with your branches so wide and your trunk so long; they protect the other smaller trees so that they can become Christmas trees.”

The ugly tree began to realize what his purpose was thanks to the owl’s vision. Then the ugly tree thought; “It really doesn’t matter how you look on the outside if you look on the outside if you feel beautiful on the inside.” The ugly tree knew that he would never be picked as a Christmas tree because he had been chosen by the Creator to do something more important: to help other trees grow straight and strong so they could become Christmas trees.  This is what the wise owl knew that others had forgotten; the owl knew that was why this ugly tree survived so long in the forest.

Then one stormy night there was the worst thunderstorm the forest could ever remember; the wind was blowing and the lightning was cracking all around the forest floor. But in the special part of the forest where all the beautiful Christmas trees grew, there was only calm for they were protected by the big, ugly tree. But even the ugly tree had never quite seen the forest floor below. The ugly tree’s wide, crooked branches could not stop the lighting’s assault upon the forest underneath.

As the ugly tree looked down at the other trees, he saw that fire was beginning to spread on the forest floor below and soon would burn the beautiful young Christmas trees. He saw panic in the young trees’ faces and knew he had to do something. So he began to sway back and forth. The wind blew stronger and stronger until finally there was a loud crack, and the great ugly tree fell to the ground with a sign of a wounded heart that could be heard throughout the forest.

The next day forest rangers came to inspect the damage to this special part of the forest. To their amazement, there was no injury to this part of the forest from the terrible fire storm, except to a big ugly tree that they never lied much any way. They reasoned that the old, ugly tree, with its branches ever wide, had smothered the fire when it fell, saving the rest of the young trees. The other trees were happy though that finally this big, old ugly tree was now gone from their part of the forest.  “True now,” they thought, “we are the most beautiful trees of all the forest in the world.”

The rangers cut the dead ugly tree up into logs that would be used as a forest chapel for visitors. And, you know, it was the most beautiful chapel anyone could remember. To this day, people come from all over the world to pray, worship, and sing in this lovely, wooden chapel.  Some did notice, however, that part of the wood was burnt, but they really didn’t think much about it because it only added to the beauty of the chapel.

On the roof of the chapel, perched the wise old owl.  She knew about those blackened marks in the wood. To her, they were the signs of love, not ugliness. They were the marks of sacrifice and love, as the old ugly tree protected his brother and sister trees so that they could be used as Christmas trees.

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