While driving down the highway recently, I spotted a tree along the roadside. A lone evergreen, perched firmly on the embankment in the midst of brush that had already experienced a touch of winter’s chill. It was simple in stature and unpretentious, except for one thing: someone chose to adorn its branches with a touch of Christmas spirit. Sparkling garland, ornaments, and a star on top greeted those who passed by. As I took a second glance in my rearview mirror, I recalled a story television journalist and traveling reporter Charles Kuralt shared years ago about a similar sight on the high plateaus of the Colorado Rockies. His story was not strange sounding, perhaps, until you consider that trees didn’t typically grow there due to poor soil and rough weather. In fact, I understand you didn’t find many people adventurous enough to live in that area either. It wasn’t conducive to much except providing passage from one part of Colorado to another. Perhaps that’s why this small tree stood out to passersby. It was a juniper, growing all alone beside Highway U.S. 50 without another tree in sight. As the story goes, someone either filled with Christmas spirit or with a sense of humor put a Christmas ornament on the tree one year. No one knew who started the decorating activity but it continued throughout the season and then again the next year, and the next, and the next. By Christmas Day each year, that lone little tree was glowing with holiday spirit as it greeted the highway’s travelers. Interesting thing about this sprite little tree: it survived year after year, against all odds. Neither the summer droughts nor the winter storms could take its life. The juniper stood firmly in its place near the road, shaken at times by passing trucks but not uprooted. When highway builders took steps to widen the road in that area, they could have easily taken the tree down. However, they chose instead to begin their work just a few feet beyond. The tree defied the expectations of man and nature as it firmly claimed its place and its life: a testimony to the determined spirit of a survivor. People living in Grand Junction, thirty miles one way, and Delta, Colorado, fifteen miles in the other direction, knew about and loved that tree. It belonged to no one, yet everyone felt a sense of connection with the tree that offered encouragement throughout the year and a special touch of holiday spirit along a lonely path. Our reporter closed his story with this observation: “Just looking at it makes you think about how unexpected life on Earth can be. The tree is so lonely and so brave it seems to offer courage to those who pass it – and a message. It is the Christmas message: There is life and hope even in a rough world.” As Christmas Day nears, many of us are decorating trees in our yards and in our homes to embrace the holiday spirit. Adorned with lights, ornaments and special remembrances, they draw us together with family and friends to celebrate a season of love. Twinkling lights illuminate the darkness while shiny glass balls bring a spark of joy and beauty. Ornaments passed down from year to year unlock treasured memories while a soft flowing garland wraps the strong branches with its gentle spirit. Tucked around its base, we find the spirit of giving. At the top, we carefully place an angel, a star, or perhaps a cluster of specially chosen flowers to draw our eyes and our hearts upward. It’s not just a simple juniper on a highway. It’s more than a decorated tree in our home. The Christmas tree is a symbol of life and love, of courage and survival, of joy and giving, of hope and peace. So, gather near a Christmas tree and let your heart embrace the majesty and wonder found in this season: the beauty of life, the light of hope, the sweetness of shared memories, the joy of giving and the gentle warmth of hearts wrapped in God’s most precious gift of love. Merry Christmas, from my heart and home to yours. Nancy Williams, M Ed, LPC offers counseling, life coaching and consulting services, and is the author of Secrets to Parenting Your Adult Child. Send comments to her at www.nancywilliams.net..

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