So the Christmas season is upon us! Hopefully by now you have your decorations up and a little shopping done. I, personally, haven’t started Christmas shopping, but mainly because my Christmas list is very small. I don’t have a huge immediate family, and in recent years, my husband and I have committed to doing very small gifts for each other.
I do, however, have the tree and all the other decorations up. I especially love our Christmas tree. We have had the same tree for several years. It is the old kind of tree that requires all the branches be inserted individually, and the lights put on it one string at a time. I know, I know … get into the 21st century Elaine, and get a tree that comes in parts and already has the lights on it.
Every year I say, “Next year we are getting another tree.” But, honestly, ever year I put up our old tree (no small feat) and once it is done, it is amazing how good it looks. Something about sitting in the glow of that tree and looking at all the ornaments on it, each representing some beautiful memory from our life together, I fall in love with it all over again!
Yep, I’m a sap at Christmas! (no pun intended!)
So as I think about Christmas trees, the phrase “trimming the tree” comes to me. While we use that phrase to mean putting decorations on the tree, Jesus talked about “trimming” from a different perspective. In the New Testament, Jesus referred to trimming as pruning, and more often spoke of pruning vine branches versus a tree.
In John 15, Jesus describes Himself as the vine, and his followers as the branches that remain on the vine. However, there was a second type of branch, the kind that “did not bear fruit” (John 15:2). Notice these unfruitful branches were ‘cut away.’ However, the branches that remained and bore fruit were pruned!
At first, it sounds like both branches are being punished, but those who regularly prune shrubs or bushes understand the process of pruning is a good thing. The act of pruning actually makes the branch grow back, and grow back both stronger and more fruitful than before.
The bearing of fruit is important, as it proves our connection to Christ:
This connection is vital. Connection to the vine (Jesus) is connection to life. Jesus tells us clearly that apart from Him we can do nothing (John 15:5). Was Jesus being arrogant? Absolutely not! To carry out all that Jesus has for us, we must draw off His strength and power. When we do, the fruit of the spirit becomes obvious in our lives.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Gal. 5:22-23 ESV
So, I pray this holiday season that you will endure any spiritual pruning that occurs, and that you bear some awesome spiritual fruit!
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
Goodness -How do you define it? When looking up the word goodness in most dictionaries these synonyms are listed: integrity, honesty, uprightness, virtue, and my personal favorite -moral excellence. And evil, yes, there are synonyms for this too, but let’s just call it by its real name -sin.
Daily, I struggle against the sin within me to achieve some level of goodness. However, apart from God, it is an impossible task. My human nature is weak, but He is strong. Let’s use God’s litmus test for judging if we are good or sinful.
The Ten Commandments:
1. “You shall have no other gods before me.”
2. “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.”
3. “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.”
4. “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.”
5. “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.”
6. “You shall not murder.”
7. “You shall not commit adultery.”
8. “You shall not steal.”
9. “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.”
10. “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” Exodus 20:3-17 NIV
In our culture, when we think of kindness we think of simple acts, such as providing a meal, sending flowers, or giving a gift of money. All these things are kind, but Jesus wants us to go deeper. Supernatural kindness starts with the Golden Rule:
“Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.” Matthew 7:12 NLT
The kindness Jesus speaks of can only be born out of a grateful heart. Those who have received and accepted true kindness are eager to return it. Read more