written and illustrated by Grace Eliza Potter

In the king’s garden was a small apple tree with exactly twenty-four apples. Each one was pure gold of the highest luster except one. This apple was a deep scarlet red, but since it’s brothers outshined it, no one noticed it and instead admired the beautiful golden apples belonging to the king. One night, several thieves crept into the garden and stole the twenty-three golden apples and left the red one. “It is of no worth to us!” said the leader, and the band of thieves left.

The next morning the royal gardener went out to the garden to tend to the tree and was shocked when he saw that all of the beautiful golden apples were gone. He ran and told the king, and the king was very sad, because he knew he could do nothing to put the golden apples back on the apple tree even if he got them back, and it was when they were on the special tree they were the most beautiful. He ordered his guards to find the apples anyway and eventually the thieves were caught, but the apples just sat in the royal treasury. Because the golden apples were gone, no one came to see the apple tree, and the red apple was forgotten…

          Far away, in the city of Bethlehem, a man and a woman walked through the streets looking for a place to stay. The woman was very big with child and rode on a donkey, and her husband went from door to door seeking shelter for his wife, but he was told at every inn that there was no vacancy. Bethlehem was very crowded because the king was taking a census and every person had to go to the place of his birth to be counted.

The man walked up to an inn and begged the innkeeper to let them stay. “My wife will soon be having her baby, please let us stay somewhere.” The innkeeper took pity on them and let them sleep in his stable, a cave behind the inn. A large cow, goats, and chickens were in the stable, and the couple’s donkey was added to the menagerie. They made themselves comfortable and later that night the woman gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. The man put fresh hay in the manger where the animals ate and placed his son in the manger.

He didn’t know it, but a new star glowed brightly in the night sky and dropped its rays on the humble stable where the child lay. Some shepherds in the fields saw the star and followed its light to the stable, and when they saw the child, they bent down and worshipped him. Far away to the East, three wise men also saw the star and began their journey to see the child, for they had interpreted the signs and knew this star marked the birthplace of a very special child.

They found their way to the city where the solitary red apple sat in the king's tree and stopped so their camels could drink from the fountain in the king's garden. They saw an apple tree growing close by, with only one apple hanging on its branches. “It is a beautiful apple,” said one of the wise men, and he plucked it off the tree and placed it with the other gifts for the child. The wise men continued on their long journey and finally found the special child they had been looking for.

They presented their gifts of gold, incense, and myrrh, and forgot about the apple, which had fallen to the bottom of one of the packs.  The baby giggled and pointed to the pack and the wise men saw that something seemed to glow right through the leather.  One of the wise men reached down into the pack in amazement, took out the apple and presented it to the child. It glowed with a rosy light and shone on the baby’s face. It glowed brighter and brighter until it became even more golden than any of its brothers had been. 

Light surrounded the apple as the baby caressed it.  The wise men knew the apple had been red when they picked it up and they marveled at the change in it.  They realized that this special apple must have been left on the tree for a reason.  The other stars in the sky had remained unchanged at the baby’s birth but one special star shone brighter than all the rest just for Him.  Like the star, this apple that was red when all its brothers were golden, would show its true colors not to any earthly king, but only to the Heavenly King.

The End


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