Twenty-five years ago on a cold and snowy night, I started to write a children's story. It was like someone was dictating the story to me, and when I finished writing, I stayed up all night and illustrated part of the story. I could see the snow falling from my window where I sat writing and illustrating the story. I was so caught up in the moment that I hardly noticed how late it was...
There was a little boy named Benjamin. He just loved Christmas and he especially loved the tree decorating party that his family held each year. He was in charge of putting the candy canes on the Christmas tree. Benjamin really wanted to hang all the special ornaments this year instead.
This Christmas was a special season and Benjamin’s mother was walking down the hall passed Benjamin’s room. “Benjamin” said his mother, "this year we have a surprise for you. Since you are a big boy now and are six years old, you are going to put the special ornaments on the tree tonight.” He loved the special angel and the snowman the best. The big red Christmas balls were so shiny that they twinkled against the Christmas tree lights.
Benjamin knew how proud he would be this year when he would stand back and admire the ornaments that he had hung on the family tree. “Now hurry up and finish getting ready”, said his mother, as she walked downstairs to the kitchen. Benjamin was so excited this morning because his dad and his little sister, Sally were all going to pick out a tree together.
After they chose the special tree, his dad was going to cut it down and then they would bring it home on their sled. Benjamin ran down the back staircase that led to the kitchen. “Where’s Dad” he said, “Where’s Dad and Sally, they didn’t leave without me did they?” His mother glanced over with a smile “Well, who is the excited boy today, Ben? Dad would never leave without you he is out back getting the sled ready. Sally is there too.”
Before she even finished her sentence Benjamin was out the door and running across the yard towards the shed. Benjamin’s dad was busy cleaning the sled and Sally was throwing snow balls. They all left together and walked towards the woods to cut down the family Christmas tree.
Benjamin followed behind the sled that his dad brought with them to carry the tree home. Sally rode on the sled. “Sally, what kind of tree do you want", Benjamin asked. “Oh, I want a little one so that I can decorate it all by myself,” said Sally. “I want it to be the best tree ever, Dad", said Benjamin. “I think that it will be the best tree this year, son”, said their father.
When they were deep in the woods they began to look for just the right tree. Sally and their father went to the left and walked through rows and rows of trees. Benjamin walked in the opposite direction. It wasn’t long before Benjamin found just the right tree. Why, he could almost see his favorite ornaments hung on the tree alongside the beautiful twinkling Christmas lights. He stood for a long time just admiring the tree.
When all of a sudden, he heard the sound of a tree being cut down, “Oh no” he thought. He quickly ran towards the sound, only to find Sally and his dad…his dad had also found the perfect tree! He was cutting down another tree in the forest. Benjamin knew that he should have stayed together with his dad and sister. He felt so disappointed that he did not get to choose which tree they would decorate. “Well, Benjamin isn’t this tree a beauty” said his dad. Benjamin said “Oh yeah.” “Give me a hand here son", said his father.
Benjamin and his dad loaded the tree onto the sled and tied it securely so it would not fall off. Away they went to their cozy little home to get warm by the fire and have cookies with Mommy and Grandma. As they walked through the snow Benjamin just couldn’t get that other tree out of his mind.
When they got home, Benjamin’s mom was baking Christmas cookies with Grandma in the kitchen. They were chocolate chip cookies, Benjamin’s favorite kind. Grandpa was in the attic sorting the Christmas lights and boxes of Christmas ornaments. “Well, Benjamin I bet you’re excited about tonight, his mother said.” Benjamin said, “I sure am Mom, and I get to hang the special ornaments too!”
It had started to snow by now and when Benjamin looked out the window all he could see was white trimming every tree in sight. He thought that it looked like Mom and Grandma had put cookie icing all over the yard.
Well that night rolled around pretty quickly. There were plenty of cookies and goodies to eat. The family gathered around the piano to sing “Silent night.” Christmas carolers were singing at the front door and Benjamin’s mother invited them in for something to eat.
Grandpa shouted “Ben, it’s time to decorate the tree.” “Okay Grandpa, come on Sally let’s go", said Benjamin. They ran through the dining room into the living room where the tree stood. Everyone was in the living room by now and taking ornaments from the boxes stacked in the corner. Benjamin’s dad had already put the Christmas lights on the tree and he leaned over to plug in the cord. Everyone cheered as he turned off the room lights and lit the tree.
Grandpa picked up Benjamin and lifted him high enough to hang the star from the top of the tree. “Okay Sally now it’s your turn”, said Grandpa. He lifted her so that she could hang a candy cane on one of the top branches. Sally was in charge of haning the candy canes on the lower branches.
Grandma said “Sally, here is a bunch of candy canes for you to be in charge of, hang them on the tree.” Benjamin went over and found his favorite ornaments. He carefully hung them on branches in the front of the tree for everyone to see. Later when everyone was gathered around the nativity scene to say a prayer of thanks for baby Jesus, Benjamin asked God to watch over his tree alone in the woods.
Benjamin felt so sad about his lonely and bare tree. Benjamin’s father saw how sad Benjamin looked. “What’s the matter son”, said his father. Benjamin started to cry and said “Dad I feel so sad for my tree. When we were in the forest today I found the perfect tree but it was too late. You were already cutting one down and now it is all alone in the forest on Christmas Eve.” His father looked at Benjamin and said, “Benjamin you could have told me about how you felt. Never wait so long to come to me for help. Together we can work anything out. Go get your coat and scarf and while you are at it, get some Christmas ornaments.”
Benjamin did what his father asked and when he came back his dad had his coat and hat on. “Come on son, we are going to decorate that tree for Christmas.” It was dark and cold and the snow was coming down more lightly now. There was a bright full moon to help light the way.
Benjamin’s father carried a box of ornaments and Benjamin carried some in the pockets of his coat. They trudged through the snow and finally found Benjamin’s tree. They both stopped and stood still…they could not believe their eyes. The tree glistened underneath the light of the moon. Each branch was covered with snow and the snow was twinkling like Christmas lights. His tree looked more beautiful than any tree that he had ever seen.
His dad put his box of ornaments down and said “Wow, look at that!” Benjamin smiled, he didn’t feel sad anymore. “Okay, let’s get to work son, let’s put these ornaments all over this tree and make it really magnificent. Then next year when we come to cut down our tree, we will know which one is your favorite.” Benjamin felt so happy as he put the ornaments on the tree with his father. When they were finished they stood back and looked at the tree. “Wow” his dad said again, “Benjamin I think that you are right, I have never seen a tree more beautiful than the one you have chosen. Next year we will know just where to look and we will bring this one home.”
They both walked back home underneath the moonlight with the snow falling and Benjamin thought about what a special Christmas Eve it had been. Tomorrow morning they would wake up and open their gifts and later in the day Grandma and Mommy would make a wonderful turkey dinner with all the trimmings. Benjamin just loved Christmas.
I am looking out my window, as I write this post and the snow is gently falling, just like it did the night the story of Benjamin was born. I don't think until now, this very minute I realized the parable of the story and what God was trying to teach me then. I thought about the symbols that God had used when this gift of this story was born. It did take me all these years and many trials to learn that we suffer much too long sometimes, before we ask God to help us. Nothing is ever too small for God.
God answered Benjamin's prayer to watch over his tree, but Benjamin never imagined how God would take the situation and turn it into something so beautiful. These two lessons continue to strengthen my faith. My prayer for you this Christmas is that when you ask God to watch over your circumstance, that He turns your situation into something beautiful to strengthen your faith and bless you this Christmas.
I have written several children's stories on my children's blog, so stop by and enjoy. The song for this post is MY CHRISTMAS TREE and SILENT NIGHT by Michael Smith.