A young man had quarreled with his father and left home.
He continued to keep in touch with his mother, and wanted very badly to come home for Christmas, but he was afraid his father would not allow him. His mother wrote to him and urged him to come home, but he did not feel he could until he knew his father had forgiven him.
Finally, there was no time for any more letters. His mother wrote and said she would talk with the father, and if he had forgiven him she would tie a white rag on the tree which grew right alongside the railroad tracks near their home, which he could see before the train reached the station. If there was no rag, it would be better if he went on.
So the young man started home.
As the train drew near his home he was so nervous he said to his friend who was traveling with him, “I can’t bear to look. Sit in my place and look out the window. I’ll tell you what the tree looks like and you tell me whether there is a rag on it or not.”
So his friend changed places with him and looked out the window. After a bit the friend said, “Oh yes, I see the tree.”
The son asked, “Is there a white rag tied to it?”
For a moment the friend did not say anything.
Then he turned, and in a very gentle voice said, “There is a white rag tied to every limb of that tree!”
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.