The First Christmas Tree
In a forest in the far, far East grew a great many pine trees. Most of them were tall trees, higher than the houses that we see, and with wide, strong branches. But there was one tree that was not nearly so tall as the others; in fact, it was no taller than some of the children in the kindergarten.
Now, the tall trees could see far, far out over the hilltops and into the valleys, and they could hear all the noises that went on in the world beyond the forest, but the Little Tree was so small and the other trees grew so high and thick about it that it could not see nor hear these things at all; but the other trees were very kind, and they would stoop down and tell them to the Little Tree. One night in the winter time there seemed to be something strange happening in the little town among the hills, for the trees did not go to sleep after the sun went down, but put their heads together and spoke in strange, low whispers that were full of awe and wonder. The Little Tree, from its place close down to the ground, did not understand what it was all about. It listened awhile, and then lifted its head as high as ever it could and shouted to its tall neighbor: "Will you not stoop and tell me what is happening?" And the big tree stooped down and whispered: "The shepherds out on the hilltops are telling strange stories while they watch their sheep. The air is filled with sweet music, and there is a wonderful star coming up in the east, traveling westward always, and the shepherds say that they are waiting for it to stop and shine over a humble stable in their little town. I have not heard why it is going to stop there, but I will look again and listen." So the tall tree lifted up its head again, and reached far out so that it might hear more of the wonderful story.
Bye and bye it stooped down again, and whispered to the Little Tree:
"Oh, Little Tree, listen! There are angels among the shepherds on the hills, and they are all talking together. They seem to be awaiting the birth of a little child, who will be a king among the people, and the beautiful star will shine above the stable where the little king will be laid in a manger."
The tree again raised its head to listen, and the Little Tree, much puzzled, thought within itself: "It is very strange, indeed.
Oh, how I wish that I could see it all!"
It waited a little longer, and everything grew quiet, and a great peace came upon the forest.
Then suddenly the town, and even the forest was illuminated with a strange, white light that made everything as bright as day, and the air was filled with the flutter of angels' wings, and with music such as the world had never heard before.
The people and the trees, even the stars in the heaven, lifted up their voices and sang together and the whole world was filled with music and joy and love for the little Christ-child who had come to dwell upon the earth.
The Little Tree was filled with fear and wonder, for so great was the excitement that the other trees had almost forgotten it, and it could not understand the mysterious sounds; but bye and bye its tall friend said, "Listen, listen, Little Tree! Such news I have to tell! The Christ has come--the King! And the whole world is singing such beautiful music. There are wise men coming from the East, bringing beautiful gifts to the Christ-child. The angels, too, are upon the earth, and they bear gifts of gold and rare, beautiful stones. Wait! I will tell you more."
The tall tree had scarcely lifted up its head when it stooped again and whispered to the Little Tree, "Look! Look! Little Tree! They are coming this way; the angels are coming here, into our forest! Lift up your head high and you will see them as they pass."
The Little Tree lifted up its head and saw the white flutter of angel robes and heard the weird, sweet voices of the heavenly host who came with precious gifts into the forest.
"Oh," said the Little Tree, "they are coming here, toward me! What shall I do?" And in fear it bent its head so low that it almost touched the ground.
But the music came nearer and nearer, and the Little Tree felt a tender hand upon its branches, and a soft, gentle voice said to it, "Arise, Little Tree, and come with us, for we have come into the forest to seek you. Yes, you, the very smallest among the trees, are to be our gift-bearer. Come; lift up your head."
In fear and trembling the Little Tree did as the angel bade it. But when it looked into the angel's face and saw the love and kindness there, all fear was gone, and it said to the angel: "Yes; make me ready. I will come with you to the little Christ-child in the manger."
So all the angels brought their gifts of precious jewels and shining gold, and fastened them upon the branches of the Little Tree. Then the leader of the angels' band took up the Little Tree from the ground and bore it, laden with its precious burden, to the feet of the Christ-child.