This Christmas was different. We would not have a Christmas tree. The family tradition of setting up the tree, lights, and ornaments would not happen. The disappointment though unspoken was palpable. This Christmas found us in a difficult place financially. I had answered the call to give up my public-school teaching position ($20,000) to teach in a church run Christian school ($5,000) for a quarter of my usual salary.
We were doing well until my husband’s union called a strike and we completely lost his income. The strike had begun in September and now in December our funds were so limited we couldn’t afford to splurge on a Christmas tree. We were all disappointed, but it just wasn’t practical to spend money allocated for necessities.
It was Christmas Eve, and we were on our way to the school/church for the pageant and festivities. Our four children attended school there and they all had a part to play. My class was to recite the Christmas story of the birth of Christ as told in scripture from memory. I was especially excited to hear the memory verses my favorite student, with limited abilities had spent months committing to memory. It would be an exciting evening.
The school was about 20 miles away on the other side of the river. There were small shops on both sides of the road as we approached the river bridge. In one of the parking lots someone was selling Christmas trees. We pulled in and all six of us descended to look at the remaining trees. It was cold out with a brisk wind blowing snow. We oohed and awed, but of course we all knew they were beyond our reach financially.
I spoke to the owner, explaining how just looking was all we could afford because of the strike. She asked us to pick one out, but clearly understood she wouldn’t make a sale. We appreciated her kindness in letting us look and wished her blessings for Christmas. We drove off to school and the Christmas festivities.
The pageant was wonderful with every memorized scripture perfectly recited. The Christmas music uplifting and the message of the greatest Christmas gift, Jesus, clearly delivered. We left for home on a Christmas high, singing songs as we drove. The night was dark and the roads had turned icy. We slowed down as we approached the Christmas tree lot. The lights were off, but there, on the ground near the building was our tree! We pulled in to see if we were right, and to look for the kind lady who we spoke to. It was all dark except for our car lights. Even the highway was dark, cars having stayed home this Christmas eve night. We were sure this tree was ours. It was 10:30 and we decided if it was put aside for someone else they would have picked it up.
Christmas eve festivities at the Pratten house went on into the night. We had a tree to decorate with all the old ornaments and some new ones we had made earlier that week. Lights went up, laughter rang out. The tree was a gift from the Lord. We just rejoiced. It was so unexpected!