The story of the three trees is a traditonal folk tale. This book is one of several that are available with this story.
Once upon a time, high up on a mountain top, there were three little trees who stood dreaming of what they wanted to become when they grew up. The first little tree looked up at the stars and said: “I want to hold treasure. I want to be covered with gold and filled with precious stones. I’ll be the most beautiful treasure chest in the world!” The second little tree looked out at the small stream trickling by on its way to the ocean. “I want to be traveling mighty waters and carrying powerful kings. I’ll be the strongest ship in the world! The third little tree looked down into the valley below where busy men and women worked in a busy town. I don’t want to leave the mountain top at all. I want to grow so tall that when people stop to look at me they’ll raise their eyes to heaven and think of God. I will be the tallest tree in the world.
Years, passed. The rain came, the sun shone and the little trees grew tall, strong and beautiful. One day three wood cutters climbed the mountain. The first wood cutter looked at the first tree and said, “This tree is beautiful. It is perfect for me.” With a swoop of his shining ax, the first tree fell. “Now I shall make a beautiful chest, I shall hold wonderful treasure!” the first tree said. The second wood cutter looked at the second tree and said, “This tree is strong. It’s perfect for me.” With a swoop of his shining ax, the second tree fell. “Now I shall sail mighty waters!” thought the second tree. “I shall be a strong ship for mighty kings!”
The third tree felt her heart sink when the last wood cutter looked her way. She stood straight and tall and pointed bravely to heaven. But the wood cutter never even looked up. “Any kind of tree will do for me.” He muttered. With a swoop of his shining ax, the third tree fell.
The first tree rejoiced when the wood cutter brought her to a carpenter’s shop. But the carpenter fashioned the tree into a feed box for animals. The once beautiful tree was not covered with gold, or treasure. She was coated with saw dust and filled with hay for hungry farm animals. The second tree smiled when the wood cutter took her to a shipyard, but no mighty sailing ship was made that day. Instead the once strong tree was hammered and awed into a simple fishing boat. She was too small and too weak to sail to an ocean, or even a river, instead she was taken to a little lake. The third tree was confused when the wood cutter cut her into strong beams and left her in a lumberyard. “What happened?” The once tall tree wondered. “All I ever wanted was to stay on the mountain top and point to God…”
Many days and nights passed. The three trees nearly forgot their dreams. But one night, golden starlight poured over the first tree as a young woman placed her newborn baby in the feed box. “I wish I could make a cradle for him.” Her husband whispered. The mother squeezed his hand and smiled as the starlight shone on the smooth and sturdy wood. “This manger is beautiful.” She said. And suddenly the first tree knew he was holding the greatest treasure in the world.
One evening a tired traveler and his friends crowded into the old fishing boat. The traveler fell asleep as the second tree quietly sailed out into the lake. Soon a thundering and a thrashing storm arose. The little tree shuddered. She knew she did not have the strength to carry so many passengers safely through the wind and the rain. The tired man awoke. He stood up, stretched out his hand, and said, “Peace. Be still.” The storm stopped as quickly as it had begun. And suddenly the second tree knew she was carrying the king of heaven and earth.
One Friday morning, the third tree was startled when her beams were yanked from the forgotten wood pile. She flinched as she was carried through an angry jeering crowd. She shuddered when soldiers nailed a man’s hand to her. She felt ugly and harsh and cruel. But on Sunday morning, when the sun rose and the earth trembled with joy beneath her, the third tree knew that God’s love had changed everything. It had made the third tree strong. And every time people thought of the third tree, they would think of God. She was even taller than the tallest tree in the world.
Like these trees, we are all transformed by what we bear. Mary bore the son of God in her body. The angels bore tidings of great joy to the world. Joseph bore the worry of community scorn as he married a woman who was already pregnant—just as his son Jesus would bear the scorn of the upstanding people because he associated with tax collectors and prostitutes. The first tree bore the food for the animals and the tiny, helpless, snugly wrapped real flesh and blood body of God. All are transformed by the touch of Jesus into something meaningful and full of treasure.
Shepherds are transformed into someone worthy of the news of the birth of royalty and the honor of an audience at the site of his birth. Tyrants are defeated, stormy seas are calmed and little boats become barges for the King of the Universe.
All that is broken in our world is being healed. All who are lost are being found. A simple tree is transformed into the bridge between heaven and earth. Death is turned into life.
What great joy it is to know that Christ—the baby in the manger, the man in the boat, the one on the tree—has been given to us. Given to us as a free gift of grace. If God can transform a feed trough, a little boat and an instrument of torture, a young woman and a simple carpenter into bearers of his amazing grace, what will he do in you?