A teenager who had run away from home is returning on Christmas Eve by train. He isn't sure if his parents will receive him. He had written his father beforehand, asking him to tie a red cloth on the big elm at the back of their family property, adjacent to the train tracks, to signal him if he's welcome.
When he is yet a few miles away, the boy shares his anxiety with an older passenger sitting next to him. The man says he knows the teenager will be as welcome as another young man who ran off one time. Then he tells him Jesus' parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11–32).
Sure enough, when the train reaches the old homestead, the father's red signal is out—but instead of one signal, there are dozens of red flags waving in the wind, one from every conceivable branch, shouting the news to a runaway boy that all is forgiven at Christmas.—Retold by Keith Phillips