"The big pine trees make the prettiest trees," the little pine says to himself.
It is Christmastime in the forest, and all the trees are excited about the season. Their thick branches are covered with blankets of snow -- all the branches except for the little pine's, that is.
"Who would want such a little tree with such thin branches?" he says.
"Don't worry," says the biggest spruce in the forest, "someone will think you're special."
"All trees are special," chirps a little bird, sitting on a snowy bough.
But the little pine isn't so sure. His branches droop a little.
"Hey, wait for me!" calls Sarah. "I want to pick the tree this year!"
Her brother David scoops up some soft snow and makes a snowball.
"Not if I get there first," he shouts, throwing the snowball at a lamppost.
Dad and Mom follow as the family starts out on a snowy walk to the forest.
"Remember," says Mom, "it can't be too broad, or it won't fit through the door."
"And it can't be too tall," says David, "or it will scrape the ceiling."
"We'll know the perfect tree when we see it," says Sarah.
Soon the family arrives at the forest. The trees can't wait to see which tree will be picked.
The children race right past the giant spruce trees. They stop at the little pine.
"This one!" decides Sarah.
"Yeah! It's perfect!" says David.
The children dance around the little pine.
"Hmm," says Mom, "it's not too broad."
"And it won't scrape the ceiling," says Sarah.
"Looks just right to me," says Dad.
"See," says the biggest spruce, "someone thinks you're special already."
"They can't mean me," says the little pine. "Look at my thin little branches."
Dad examines the tree closely. "The trunk isn't very broad. It'll be easy to cut," he says.
"Be careful," says Mom.
"I'll be very careful," says Dad. "I won't hurt our tree a bit."
Dad begins to saw the bottom of the little pine's trunk.
"What beautiful, straight branches," says Mom. "Such a lovely little tree."
"See? They don't think your branches are skinny," says the biggest spruce. "They think you're special."
The little pine still drooped. "They think I'm special now. But wait 'til they get me home."
Once the little pine is cut, Dad carefully wraps it with twine.
"The twine makes sure the branches won't bend and break off," he tells the children.
David and Dad lead the way home with their new tree tied securely onto the sled.
"Where will we put the tree?" asks David.
"In front of the window," says Mom, "so everyone can see our perfect little tree."
"The decorations will be so beautiful!" Sarah says. "Our tree will be the best one ever!"
"I hope the decorations look right on my skinny little branches," the little pine thinks. "I don't want to disappoint my new family."
At home, Dad and David make a tree stand for the little pine. Dad puts a bowl of water at the bottom for the tree's trunk.
"What's that for?" asks David.
"To give the tree a drink," says Dad. "We need to take care of our perfect little tree."
Sarah and Mom watch as Dad and David get everything ready.
"Look," says Sarah. "People can see our tree from both front windows."
"You're right," says Mom. "Everyone will get to admire our beautiful tree."
"Oh, no," thought the little pine. "Everyone will see how silly the decorations look on me!"
Mom gets up from her chair. "Time to start decorating," she says.
"What can we do?" Sarah and David ask.
"Start with these," says Mom, scooting some boxes near the tree. Inside the box are brightly colored ornaments of all shapes and sizes.
"Ooh, they are so shiny," says Sarah.
"Some of them were Grandma's favorite ornaments," says Mom.
"What a lucky tree," says David, "to wear such special ornaments."
"I'll place the angel on the top," says Dad.
The little pine is worried the angel will not be able to balance on his thin top branches.
David and Sarah hang shiny ornaments on the little pine's branches until the boxes are empty. Mom wraps the tree with garlands of red ribbon. The angel that Dad placed atop the highest branch proudly watches over everything.
"Isn't it the most beautiful tree you have ever seen?" asks Sarah.
"It certainly is," says Dad.
"How lucky we were to find such a special tree," says David.
The little pine perks up. "The family isn't disappointed. Maybe the big spruce trees were right."
David glances out the window. "Look!" he says. "It's snowing!"
"This is the perfect Christmas," says Mom.
The little pine stands proud and straight. "The big spruce trees were right," he thinks. "Being special doesn't always mean being the biggest or the most beautiful. In the forest, I thought that I was a scrawny little pine. But now I know that I truly am special." -- By Suzanne Lieurance
Our next story is a stirring parable of how humble -- even disappointing -- circumstances can become exalted in the context of Christ and Christmas. See "The Tale of Three Trees" on the following page.