ur family moved from Alabama to southeastern Missouri when I was in my early teens. Daddy’s sister and her family had already been living in Missouri for several years. We lived on their farm in a log house (yes, a real honest-to-goodness log house, complete with a dogtrot between the two large rooms). That fall, I helped to harvest the cotton crop by picking it by hand. I vowed then that if I ever owned land, there wouldn’t be a stalk of cotton growing on it!
Once the crops were harvested, we moved to a house several miles away, located on one of the main roads through the area. My father found employment at a dry cleaning business in a nearby town.
As fall evolved into winter, we began to think about Christmas and a Christmas tree. Back home in northeast Alabama, we would go out in December and find a cedar tree to cut and bring home. But in that region of Missouri, cedar trees weren’t as common. Buying a tree was out of the question because our family was poor, and a bought Christmas tree would have been a luxury.
Across the flat farmland near where we lived were some woods. I had explored the woods previously, so my mother told me to go back and bring home anything that looked like a Christmas tree. Scouting through the woods, I finally found a small bush shaped somewhat like a Christmas tree, but it only had bare branches. Nevertheless, I took it home . . . and that was when Mother’s ingenuity swung into gear.
Mother stuck the bush in an old syrup bucket filled with rocks to hold the bush upright. Next, she pulled out a box of Christmas-tree trimmings that had made the trip with us from Alabama. Mother set the tree on a living-room table. Around the base of the bush and cascading down the bucket, she placed cotton to simulate snow. Pulling strands of tinsel from the box, Mother wrapped the bare branches. Next, she hung ornaments on the branches. Finally, the tree was topped with a star. We then looked on with amazement at Mother’s creation. The bare bush had been transformed into a beautiful Christmas tree.
I don’t remember much about Christmas that year—our meal or our gifts, although I am certain they were modest. But I will never forget our special Christmas tree.
Word got around the community about our Christmas tree, and people stopped by to see it. Even the local minister came by one day to have a look.
Over the years, we’ve had many Christmas trees—cedars, firs, and artificial trees—but no tree has ever been as memorable as the special one created by my mother’s ingenuity.
Our family seldom attended church. We were not Christians at that time, so we didn’t dwell much on the true meaning of Christmas. However, in recent years, I have thought much about that special tree and a deeper meaning.
The white cotton used for snow represents the invitation of the Lord found in Isaiah 1:18: “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.”
The tinsel Mother wrapped around the branches to clothe them with the splendor of Christmas speaks of clothing ourselves with Christ: “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Gal. 3:26-27 NIV).
The ornaments Mother hung on the branches remind me of the true adornment of the Christian life: “Let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price” (1 Peter 3:4).
The star Mother placed on the tree has special significance. Long before the Savior came into the world, a promise had been given that “there shall come a Star out of Jacob” (Num. 24:17).
That promise was fulfilled centuries later:
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. . . .When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.
When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh (Matt. 2:1-2, 9-11).
Wise men still seek Him, worship Him, and bring gifts to Him. And His star still shines in a dark, distressed world to bring the light of God’s salvation to all people and proclaim, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14).