What My Christmas Tree Taught Me about Church Life

When my husband put up our artificial Christmas tree this year, we discovered many of the pre-installed lights didn't work. We had patches of darkness amid the lights.  

Luckily Hoyt and I had a few extra bulbs on hand to start the repair process. After two runs to Wal-Mart to buy more bulbs and several hours spent checking and replacing bulbs, our tree—make that our entire tree—now shines as intended.

Patches of darkness amid the lights. Lighted bulbs next to non-lighted bulbs. Doesn't that sound like a lot of churches you know?

My Christmas tree reminded me of three truths about church life.

1. An absence of light doesn't equal an absence of power.
My tree's problem was the bulbs, not the wiring. Once we dealt with the problem bulbs, we could verify the presence of sufficient electrical power.
In the same way, we can't blame the Holy Spirit for problems in our churches. His power hasn't stopped flowing to the light-holders.

2. Beware of cascading effects.

The bulb-holders on our tree are connected to each other in groups. Each group is wired to a single plug, and bad bulbs impact the whole group's ability to shine. Once a certain number of bulbs in the same group fail—and sometimes they all fail at once, a whole set of branches will not light.
Deal with those problem bulbs one by one, and after a certain number of repairs, you'll find your lynchpin (or lynch-bulb, in this case). The momentum will swing, and the lights will come on again. You'll be able to see the working bulbs shine even before you've dealt with all the non-working bulbs.
            Healthy attitudes and spiritual vitality are contagious in churches, especially in small groups. Ditto for apathy and other bad attitudes.

3. The choice to care requires sacrifice.

            Yes, it took time to supply fresh bulbs where a bulb on our tree had failed. Yes, my fingertips got sore, my arms got scratched, and my legs got cramps (or went to sleep) during the contortions required to put a bulb with good wires in each needy bulb-holder.
As I see it, Hoyt and I had three alternatives: Fix the problem, settle for patchy light, or throw away an expensive tree.   
Cumbersome as the repair process was, I'm glad Hoyt and I opted to deal with the problems on our tree. I feel the same way about problems at my church.

Tuesday – December 16, 2014

Those who wait in darkness

Scott's apartment was dark, and his wife and children were sleeping when he stumbled into his family room early one morning in October.

At least my son Scott thought everyone was asleep.

A familiar voice startled Scott out of his fatigue. Huddled in the recliner with a favorite blanket and a stuffed Pooh bear, my older grandson (age 2½) was waiting for Scott in the darkness. The little man was hungry. He wanted his dad to turn on the kitchen lights and give him something to eat.

My grandson isn't the only one who anticipates the coming of light.

The gospel of John reminds us that Jesus is the Light of God who shines in the darkness of our world.

How amazing to realize that the Light came to the darkness where we live. He came to meet our needs and make everything right.

But many people don't know Jesus. Like my grandson, they wait in the darkness for help. They get as comfortable as they can and clutch whatever gives them comfort and security, but they can't eliminate the darkness on their own or stop the hunger in their souls.

These are the people who need the message of Christmas. These are the ones who wait for the Light.

You and l often get sidetracked from Christ's priorities, but the lostness of our world should startle all of us back to attention.

How will people hear of Christ unless His church shares the message?

This Christmas, can we join hands in telling and praying and giving so fewer people spend another year waiting in the dark? Why should they wait in darkness when Light is within reach?

December 9, 2015