A Poisonous Tree for Christmas

A few days ago the Wild family—Mom and Dad and their two children—living on the Western Cape of South Africa were decorating their Christmas tree, a familiar holiday ritual. With the last ornament tucked onto a lighted branch, they all stepped back (you know the drill) to admire their blinking, glittering Yuletide creation. The requisite chorus of oohs and ahhs declared a job well done!

Except that Mother noticed the two pet cats, for some strange reason, also apparently admiring the tree. “Looks like we’ve got a mouse in our branches,” she pointed at the cats. But when the family tracked the cats’ unblinking stares back to the tree, it was no mouse emerging. The collective gasp was over the writhing, protruding head, and body of a four-foot-long boomslang, the most venomous snake in South Africa. Freeze!

Father moved first, grabbing his phone, snapping some pix and texting them to an animal handler he knew. A phone call confirmed they had a deadly boomslang in their home, its venom was able to shut off blood coagulation leading to death by bleeding.

For two hours the family, hardly daring to breathe, kept vigil on the snake in the tree, as the handler raced through the countryside to their home. But when he walked in, the snake dropped from the Christmas tree to the floor, slithering toward the couch to a chorus of screams. But the snake handler's long iron prongs snatched the snake and bagged it. Confirmation—a boomslang indeed.

Apparently, the snake had entered the home, confused but unnoticed, and had sought refuge in the Christmas tree. The handler later released the snake into the wild—far, far away from the Wild’s home, you can sure.

A poisonous Christmas tree. But then, isn’t that the story of Christmas? Wasn’t the Baby of the Bethlehem manger “the Word made flesh,” sent as a divine emissary to this rebel planet, born so that He might eventually die for the salvation of the fallen race?

And didn’t the grown-up Jesus once declare that “‘as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in Him’”? (John 3:14-15).

Born in a wooden manger, dead on a wooden cross—all for what? “[He] Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes [we] are healed’” (1 Peter 2:24 NKJV, emphasis supplied). 

Hoisted like a snake on Calvary’s tree, the Savior of the world bore our poison and died for our rescue. The truth is you cannot separate the Christmas cradle from the Calvary cross—for the salvation we celebrate today was only possible by the Savior lying in the one and dying on the other. Profound mystery, relentless truth: “‘Herein is love.’ Wonder, O heavens! and be astonished, O earth!” (Desire of Ages 49).