There is an art to gift giving which once mastered overwhelms the giver and receiver with a deep sense of satisfaction. For the giver it must be a completely selfless activity starting at the point the giver has decided to bestow and gift upon the receiver. The giver must know the receiver, what he or she likes, his or her personality, what he or she might like to get as a gift. You see, it is in that last part particularly that I failed with this gift. I looked at that book and said "I would like it if someone got this for me" thinking that was a good enough reason to get it for someone else. I failed to get outside and beyond myself in order to successfully give. Time has shown how selfishly thoughtless the gift was since I am the only one who has ever flipped its pages.
At the climax of the story, Winfried and his men have been traveling on Christmas Eve. Winfried is searching out a particular place marked by a conspicuously old oak tree. This tree has ritualistic significance to the forest pagans who use it as a meeting place for ceremonies and animal sacrifices to Thor. This is a particularly important night since not only is it the winter solstice festival but a special sacrifices is needed to appease Thor.
The story at this point is ripe with symbolism all pointing to what Christians know to be the true mystery of Christmas. The forest pagans' sacrifices and pleas have not been enough to satisfy Thor. The forest priest proclaims, "More costly is the offering that shall cleans your sin." He has chosen a special child to go to Valhalla in order to send a message to the gods. The Chieftain's own young son, clothed in lambs wool, is chosen to be the messenger. His eagerness to go betrays his ignorance of the errand. The boy is blindfolded. A black, stone hammer will be his passage to the gods. Winfried and company witness the event from a position close by.
As the hammer swings down with full force, Winfried steps in diverting its path to the stone slab which the boys head laid upon, splintering the tool to pieces. I almost physically stood up from my seat and started to proclaim to the foresters "Do you not know? Have you not heard? We are on the very eve of the Lamb of God's birth. He came in to the world to take away the sins of the world. He needed no covering of lamb's wool for he was righteousness; his raiment was spotless. He was slain that the boy may be spared. His sacrifice was once and for all. His blood washes the world. He does not dwell in trees, but sits at the right hand of the All-Father's throne in the timeless halls."
The ancient oak's wooden heart was laid bare by the hands of Winfried's company. Thor's bloody throne was uprooted and replaced. An evergreen now stands in its place; its bows sweeping ever upward, pointing us to the One who came in a manger and now sits enthroned over His kingdom.
In almost every home tonight, an evergreen will stand, adorned with ornaments and topped with a star. But for most, the wonder of the tree won't be in looking toward what it points to, but rather to what resides under it. The name of Jesus will be forgotten as young ones creep up to the base of the symbolic peak in search of their own. As we congregate under the tree, remember to look toward heaven and give thanks for the Gift of gifts.