It was nine in the morning when they crucified him. The written notice of the charge against him read: The King of the Jews. Mark 15:25-26
Years ago, in a Colorado town, snow began to fall on a young couple contemplating the approaching Christmas season. As their thoughts meandered from the stable manger to the shopping mall, they knew that their meagre wages would prevent them from purchasing costly Christmas gifts. Therefore, they set out to make their own that year.
A while later the young man was in a local hardware store when he spotted a very large nail. It was nearly ten inches long and very heavy. Seeing such a nail, his thoughts were drawn to the crucifixion of Christ. How large those nails must have been and how wicked their purpose. As he wondered around the store, he could not keep the sobering thoughts of that nail from his mind. He decided to buy one of the nails and show it to his wife. When she saw it, her response was exactly the same. Together they wondered if perhaps, this massive nail would cause other people to remember Christ’s death at the time of His birth. “Wasn’t He born to die?” they asked each other. What better time than at His birth, to recall His reason for coming and the gift He would give.
Those thoughts stayed with them for the rest of the evening. Without Christ’s death and resurrection, there would be no celebration of Christmas as we know it today. No one would recall the intricate details accompanying the birth of just one more good person. No starry night in Bethlehem would mean anything today if it were not for the end of the story. And so, without plan or preparation, the young couple sat in their tiny attic apartment and began to scribble out a poem that would communicate the truth of Christmas. They considered the Christmas tree to be one of the most central symbols of the season and wondered whether their nail might become part of the time-honoured tradition of decorating one’s Christmas tree. Then it struck them – without question or hesitation, this nail would be an ornament hung on the tree itself. It was weighty and would pull down any normal branch, therefore it had to be hung deep inside the tree near the trunk. They worried that such placement would not allow it to be seen as all ornaments are intended. Slowly, a powerful realization washed over both of them. This ornament, like the Saviour Himself, would not be like any other. It would be obscured just as Jesus has been obscured among the trappings of the stable and its animals. This ornament would become a private devotion for those who hung it. It would serve as a silent reminder each time they looked at their tree that it was a tree upon which Christ redeemed the world.
And so, with their poetry typed on an index card and fishing line attached to the nail, they wrapped their new gift in folds of white paper to present to their family. It was ungainly and ugly for an ornament but its message was simple and moving. That Christmas Eve, as their family sat around the warm glow of the Christmas tree lights, the couple extended their odd ornament as an early gift to the family members gathered. Their response was visibly moving. Then, reaching deep within the branches of their Christmas tree, they hung the very first Christmas Nail.
“This is the Christmas Nail,
It is to be hung on a sturdy branch,
a branch near the trunk,
a branch that will hold
such a spike without
being noticed by well-wishers
dropping by to admire one’s tinseled tree.
The nail is known only to the home that hangs it.
Understood only by the heart that knows its significance.
It is hung with the thought that the Christmas tree
but foreshadows the Christ-tree,
which only He could decorate for us,
ornamented with nails as this.”