The days grew shorter, the air was crisper, the nights longer and the whisper of leaves falling on the roof began to awaken each Christmas tree ornament bird from his yearlong slumber. It was as if “something” sang to them, called them, and brought each one gradually alert until they had all reached a peak of excitement that made them wiggle, crinkling against their paper walls. Soon it would be time to be lifted from their crinkley crepe paper beds where they had slept day after day, week after week, month after month throughout the year.
As the special Day grew nearer, the Christmas tree birds felt the thrill of the season in their tinsel and in their springy wire clips and in their thin porcelain gold and silver bodies and their bright fluffy feather tails.
The young Christmas tree bird lay warm and comfortable beneath Gold Bird. He fairly shook with excitement. “Christmas is coming!”
He knew that soon he would be high on the Christmas tree with his Christmas bird friends and the “others". The “others” weren’t nearly so beautiful, not nearly so bright as he and his Christmas bird friends. Some of them, the round ornaments, had bright and beautiful paint, but they weren’t as beautiful as the Christmas tree birds with their springy wires and pinchey clips.
He closed his little red eyes and dreamed. On Christmas Eve, he would look down from the top of the Christmas tree and see the family gathered by the fireplace, music on the stereo, and smell cookies baking in the oven. Being part of the Christmas decorations made him feel “real” and “whole,” and “alive.”
Perhaps today they would come down from the attic to decorate the plain and ordinary Christmas tree. He imagined himself being taken lovingly from his box and hung on the tree. When all the ornaments were hung, it would become a magnificent thing of beauty.
“I’ve been thinking that I am the most beautiful Christmas bird,” he whispered to Gold Bird, in a trembling voice filled with self-admiration.
Gold Bird’s tail feathers quivered, doubting his conceited bedfellow’s words.
“Oh really! What makes you think so? The blue glass bird is made of exquisite colored hand blown glass and has a fine blue feather tail. The antique bird is missing some of his tail feathers but his porcelain glass is fragile, you can see through it. For that matter, most of us are more beautiful than you.” His body fairly shook as he scolded the young bird, lying wrapped in the tissue below him.
“Well, I don’t care what you think. The Christmas tree would not be nearly as beautiful if I wasn’t right near the top,” the little bird answered.
With a huff, Gold Bird, being older and wiser, turned his head away, but the little Christmas bird heard him say, “You conceited fellow, it would serve you right if you got left behind this year. You obviously don’t know the true meaning of Christmas and with your attitude, you don’t deserve to be included in the holiday events.”
The young Christmas bird trembled. Thinking he might be left behind scared him a bit, but not enough to change his inflated opinion of himself.
With a slight tremble in his voice, he added, “You don’t think that could happen, do you? I didn’t really mean to be conceited. It’s not that I think you aren’t very handsome too, but my tail feathers are longer and softer and fluffier than yours, and... my... paint is much shinier...”
“Tut tut,” replied Gold Bird. “I won’t listen to hear another word. You think about what I said.”
For several uncomfortable days, the young bird lay in his soft cocoon of crinkley wrapping paper. Gold Bird’s words haunted him.
“You conceited fellow, it would serve you right …” and he would shudder as the unimaginable crossed his mind. Not to be on the Christmas tree? Not to be part of the Christmas Eve celebration? He could not bear the thought.
The days grew shorter and the nights longer. A soft sprinkle of snow blanketed the roof. Leaves began to fall and the wind whistled through the trees, their bare branches just visible through the tiny window at the end of the attic. The long dark days of November edged into December.
The sound of footsteps on the attic steps awakened the Christmas birds early one morning. They held their breath, not daring to wiggle when their box was carried down the stairs.
“It’s time! It’s finally Christmas! Soon we’ll be on the Christmas tree!” the Christmas bird whispered.
The ornament box was divided into cubicles. The young Christmas bird lay in the middle cubicle under Gold Bird, wrapped snugly in soft white tissue paper. His friends were being lifted, one by one, from each cubicle beside him. He heard them squeal as they were hung on the tree. Beneath the tissue coverings, he could faintly hear the music. He could hear the chattering of children; he could even smell the cookies!
“It’s nearly time,” he whispered to Gold Bird. “It’s nearly my turn!”…but there was no answer. Gold Bird was gone and his fluffy tail no longer tickled his nose. He waited anxiously. The empty box was tossed into the corner; empty except for the little Christmas bird, hidden in the middle cubicle. He was alone.
His comfortable box was now a prison, as his beautiful body and soft fluffy tail lay swaddled in crinkley tissue paper. Joyous muffled Christmas sounds reached his ears and a tiny plastic tear formed in his little red eye. “I’ve been conceited and proud,” he whispered, “and now I’ve been left behind.”
He lay alone and forlorn through the entire month of December. One night, he faintly heard Christmas carolers and muffled “Merry Christmas, Happy New Year,” fading into the distance as they moved down the street. The Christmas season was nearly over and he had missed everything.
On Christmas Eve, all the family gathered to celebrate the birth of Jesus. The Christmas tree bird lay in his box in the corner, imagining the beautiful tree with his Christmas bird friends hanging on its branches with the “others,” the round ones, the ones he had scorned.
“They may not be as beautiful as I am,” he thought, ”but they are hanging on the tree, and I’ve been left behind.”
The little girl began to read the Christmas story. “They wrapped him in swaddling clothes and lay Him in a manger.”
The Christmas bird thought, “I’m wrapped in swaddling clothes, like the baby Jesus,” and he imagined the tiny baby wrapped sung and warm, lying in a manger. He imagined the wise men joyously welcoming Jesus’ birth.
He heard the daddy telling how Jesus came to earth as a tiny baby and if we loved and trusted Him, He would take us all to heaven and we would not be left behind.
The Christmas bird sniffed sadly, thinking, “I know what it’s like to be left behind. How much worse if I should be left behind from Heaven.”
He felt his box jiggle, crinkling his tissue paper. The tissue lifted away and he felt the warmth from the fireplace.
“Look, Mommy! It’s another Christmas birdie. Why is he alone in the box? Oh, it looks like he has a tear in his eye! He’s so beautiful. Can we hang him on the Christmas tree?”
Daddy lifted the child up and she hung the little bird near Gold Bird. Looking down from his lofty perch, he could see the family gathered around the tree and smell the Christmas dinner. He felt the love in the room. Finally, he was exactly where he needed to be.
Gold Bird gave him a stern and loving glance. “Welcome to Christmas. Did you learn anything this month?”
As he swung gently from side to side on the pine branch, the light from the fire reflected in his eye, where the tear had hardened into a drop of gold.
“I know! I understand,” he whispered to Gold Bird. “Christmas is not about the Christmas tree or the carolers. It’s not about who is the most beautiful, or the brightest or about who gave the most expensive gift. The true meaning of Christmas is celebrating Jesus’ birth, God’s gift of love. When we accept His gift and give ourselves to Jesus, we will never be left behind.”