"Hmmm," Julie mused, "I wonder if the berries taste good."
"Don't eat them!" Mr. Jensen warned.
#77- Deck the Halls
A Character story about stewardship.
"I like this one the best," Julie called through the trees.
"We already picked one out," Jason announced. "Come over here and see it."
Julie moseyed over to her dad and brother who were eyeing a tall, thin pine. "Well, what do you think, Sis?"
"It's O.K. I guess, but I think the one I picked out was a little fuller."
"Cheer up, Sissy," her father said, "We can't cut one that is too large for the living room space."
"It sure was nice of Mr. Ness to let us cut our own tree in his woods," Jason remarked.
"It sure was," his dad agreed. "And it will save us at least $25. Well, let's get the saw and start cutting."
On the way home, Mr. Jensen stopped at a Christmas tree lot. "We'll have to wait until next week to put up the tree, but I thought we'd get a few holly branches this year and make our own wreath. We can do that today. Sissy, you can pick them out."
"Wow. Thanks." Julie jumped out of the car and began to pick up some of the holly branches. "Ouch! These leaves are sharp."
"Sorry. I forgot to warn you. You have to handle them with care. Let's each take a few."
When they had paid and loaded them in the car, the three Jensens climbed into the front seat once more. As Mr. Jensen started the car, he remarked, "Oh, I almost forgot. I want to drop by the recycling bin on the way home to drop off a bundle of newspapers I have in the trunk."
When the crew got home, Mrs. Jensen and Joshua had hot chocolate waiting for them. Mr. Jensen took the tree to the back of the house while Julie and Jason unpacked the holly branches.
"I'll bet this is why the Christmas colors are red and green," Julie commented when her dad returned. "The green leaves and red holly berries are so pretty."
"Yes, you might be right. The poinsettia also has green and red leaves. Did you know that the holly berries only grow on the female holly trees? The male holly trees pollinate the tiny berries. If they are not pollinated, they will not turn red but just drop off and die."
"Hmmm," Julie mused, "I wonder if the berries taste good."
"Don't eat them!" Mr. Jensen warned. "Those berries contain a chemical called ilicin which is poisonous to our systems. In fact, few people know that mistletoe and poinsettias also contain poisons. I read that the Poison Information Center is quite busy at this time of year because of these and other seemingly harmless Christmas decorations."
"Really?" Jason responded. "Well, at least Christmas candy is good for you."
"You wish," Julie teased. "Daddy, where does this holly grow? Around here?"
"It grows in England and along the eastern coast of the States, from Texas to Massachusetts where the temperature doesn't get too cold. It's a very slow growing hard wood, though some very old trees are known to be over 100 feet tall."
"How come the leaves don't fall off in the fall?" Jason asked.
"Good question. The holly is not a deciduous tree but an evergreen. Do you remember what 'deciduous' means?"
"I do," Jason answered. "It means it looses its leaves in the fall, like a maple or oak."
"Right. Do either of you remember why trees loose their leaves in the fall?" Neither of them did. "It is to conserve on their moisture. The leaves of the tree evaporate tremendous amounts of water. I read somewhere that a large oak will evaporate 300 gallons of water a day!"
"Are you serious?" Julie gasped in unbelief. "Then how come the holly doesn't dry up since it keeps its leaves all winter?"
"Look at these leaves carefully. What is different about them from, say, a maple leaf?"
"They are very sharp!" Julie offered, displaying the prick mark on her finger.
"They're also very shiny," Jason added, "almost like someone painted them or coated them with wax."
"Right. This waxy surface keeps most of the water from evaporating. Other evergreens, like conifers- the ones with the cones- have needles which decrease the surface area so less evaporation can take place."
"I guess the holly tree is practicing ecology," Jason quipped.
"You're right," Mr. Jensen agreed. "God is surely in favor of making good use of His resources and not wasting. When you said that, Jason, it reminded me of something I read recently. The famous cedar trees of Lebanon were so plentiful in Solomon's day, that they were cut, and shipped to Israel to make the Temple. But the Lebanese have not reforested them and now all that is left are patches of 30 to 150 trees each. I understand the government is protecting them now so maybe there will be a good supply of cedars again in the future."
"I was just thinking," Julie mused, "Maybe we shouldn't get a Christmas tree. They're really just wasted, aren't they?"
"Some are, but more recently the wood has been recycled and put to good use. Trees like these are replaced and the harvesting is closely checked so that more trees are planted than are harvested. That way we won't abuse our resources and run out in the future. Say, do either of you know the Bible word for someone who takes good care of their resources? He or she is called a 'steward.' A steward will take care of just about anything that was entrusted to him- money, clothes, toys, time, or natural resources like trees."
"That's why we took the papers to the recycling bin, right?" Julie asked. "We want to be good stewards?"
"That's right. But there is something far more important than paper and trees which was entrusted to us. Paul tells us in First Corinthians chapter 4 and verse 1 that we are 'stewards of the mysteries of God.' Think how many times the story of God sending His Son into the world will be told this Christmas. Yet, how many people will heed the message and accept His gift of eternal life through Christ? For the most part, the message will be wasted, won't it?"
"That's right," Jason agreed. "I sure hope that with all the hustle and bustle at this time of year, we won't forget the real meaning of Christmas."
"Yeah," Julie said, "if we are really good stewards of the Christmas story, it should make us love the Lord even more."
"Yes, and not keep the message to ourselves either," Mr. Jensen added. "Christmas is a great time to show others what the Christmas story really means."