When I became a father one of the concerns on my heart was that my children grow up to celebrate Christmas for the right reasons. We attended all the church functions surrounding the holiday with the pageantry and the concerts. Shawn has been in multiple cantatas down through the years and the girls had parts in plays. We lit the candles and sang the songs but right in the middle of all of it was the tree with all the shiny lights and balls. What does that tree have to do with a manger, shepherds, wise-men and a Savior?
I have an acquaintance who does not erect a Christmas tree. He believes it is a tradition handed down from pagans and as such constitutes an idol. It is not allowed in his home. We still have freedom to choose in America and I try not to judge other’s beliefs. The tree seems harmless enough to me but his conviction drove me to do some serious thinking about our family tradition of lighting up the tree the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Is there any spiritual significance or is my friend correct that I have compromised my faith? Can I teach my children anything about God with that tree?
We stuck an angel on top the tree for many years. It was the same angel my Mom and Dad used their first Christmas and I can remember it sitting atop our tree every year. Mom gave her to me to use in my home and we carefully brought her out each year, until she was finally worn to the point of being a fire hazard. Now we have a big gold star that sits on top the tree. Stars and angels – yep – those are both part of the Christmas story.
I love some of the older Christmas movies and the stories they tell like “Miracle on 34th Street” and “It’s a Wonderful Life”. And both are watched in traditional black and white in our home! But there is one story I have loved more than the rest, the story of “God’s Three Trees”. It is a traditional folk tale with many variations depending on where you grew up and who told the story. In our family celebration, after the tree is up, all the house lights are turned off and a couple of candles are lit. We gather around the tree and it is my privilege to read this story to my kids as we think about our brightly shining tree and the truth that Christmas is all about the cross of Calvary. Jesus, the Greatest Gift ever given, came to be our Savior.
For my fellow fathers I want to share this traditional folk tale with you in hopes your family will grow to love it as mine does. There is a PDF file with the text on my web site and if you like, I have added an MP3 recording of the story to make it easier to share. Here are the links.
PDF of the story text: God’s Three Trees
MP3 Audio File of the story: God’s Three Trees
We have 3 simple paper bags we made to go along with the story as shown in the photos. Inside are 3 simple cut outs that go along with the story. That lets the kids pay close attention so when we reach their part of the story they can pull out their object. Kids love to participate.
Give “God’s Three Trees” a try with your family and let us know how it goes.