On this 23rd day of Advent, Norman Vincent Peale tells of a nontraditional Christmas tree that communicated the spirit of the season more than any other.
Christmas trees have changed a lot since my boyhood when father carried a fragrant spruce into the living room. Today one sees all kinds of unusual creations of silver and plastic. But the most unusual one I’ve heard of is a tree in Florida —a different kind of Christmas tree.
It was put up at the First Methodist Church in Coral Gables last December and caused such a stir that it was never taken down.
The creator, Mrs. Dorothy Culbreath, was meditating one day in early December in the church’s Welcome Center room, which serves as a haven for those who wish a moment of quiet, or some fellowship. When the idea came, she and her husband, a Miami attorney, went searching for just the right tree. They saw it—the top part of a lime tree, all covered with black mold—sticking out of a trash pile.
They took it home, cleaned off the mold and sprayed the branches white. When it was transformed into something beautiful, Dorothy and her husband set it up in their church’s Welcome Center.
The Sunday bulletin announcement read: “Help us decorate our Blessing Tree. Write on a card the scripture verse which has blessed your life. Then hang it on the tree. Multicolored cards are in the Meditation Room for this purpose.” Hundreds were done, and the tree blossomed into beauty.
Members and visitors who needed a spiritual lift went to the tree and found such verses as:
With God all things are possible. Perfect love casteth out fear.
The Lord knoweth them that trust in Him.
Other blessings bloomed on the tree. One woman wrapped six-cent stamps in plastic packets and hung them on the tree with notes saying: “Write someone a cheery note today.” Many who took a blessing replaced it with one or more of their own. One member brought a lonely woman she found sitting in the bus station to the church to pick a blessing.
This gives people a chance to be channels for God’s love; it’s a tree whose fruits bring joy and inspiration to others. As I thought about this unusual tree, I wondered if, perhaps, it weren’t the most Christmas one of all.
This story first appeared in the December 1970 edition of Guideposts.