I know it is a little late in the year to be bragging about this, but here it is. Every year, our municipality gives about 2 weeks after New Year’s to get our Christmas tree to the local fire hall for disposal. After this they come and grind up all the trees into mulch to use later in the Spring. In the last 9 years, I think I have managed to drop the Christmas tree off at the municipality only 3 times.
Most years, the tree ends up at the side of our garage. It sits there throughout the Spring into the Fall, and just might be taken off the property before the new Christmas tree is welcomed home. No guarantee.
This year however, we actually got our Christmas tree to the pile! I can’t tell you the feeling of wonderful relief it was to slide that sucker off the roof of our vehicle and heave it on top of the other discarded trees. Yes, I was amazing (the bar is not set that high).
There is no substitute for a real Christmas tree. But there is a problem. We don’t think of it this way, but the pretty ornaments, ribbons and tinsel cannot change the fact that it is slowly dying. Sure, it sucks up reservoir-fulls of water in a desperate but feeble attempt to hang on. The trunk has been severed from the root system. And so, the tree has been given a death sentence. We should be thankful that trees can’t scream or cry. That would be awkward when opening the presents.
You may not think about this as Christmas trees stay green, even long after they’re cut down. That is the nice thing about evergreens. But we can never pretend that the tree is alive even though it is still green. If it is not already dead, it is dying.
It reminds me of an issue Jesus had with an indigenous plant of his day. In Mark 11 we see a hungry Jesus and disciples walking along a path. They saw a fig tree that was covered in leaves. Jesus went over to eat some, but discovered the tree had no fruit. He then cursed the plant and it withered up. It seems a bit unfair since it wasn’t even the season for figs.
As I understand it, this plant would not normally be in full leaf unless it had figs as well. Essentially, the fig tree was advertising something it didn’t have. This picture had real life connections. Jesus constantly had run-ins with the religious leaders of that time. That group worked really hard to make sure everything looked good on the outside. They wore the right clothes, ate the right food, observed the right rules, and prayed the right prayers. They were experts in doing “right”. There was just one problem; their lives bore no “fruit” that benefited anyone else. Green, but not alive.
This is a troubling picture. Every generation and every culture has their “experts” in doing right. Today’s experts are more than likely church going folk like me, and perhaps even more so, church leaders like me. If I happen be a pleasant shade of green, do I assume that I am automatically bearing good “fruit” from my life? I shouldn’t.
How do we know if good fruit is present? This is hard to answer. We most certainly cannot answer it ourselves, for we will not be the beneficiaries of it. That is like taking an auditioning singer’s word for it on the initial episodes of an American Idol season. Other people are the true judges. Fortunately, we are given a list of fruit to look for in our lives.
“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” Galatians 5:22-23
A few helpful questions to ask ourselves: When others typically leave our presence, is their emotional or spiritual hunger somewhat satisfied? Do they leave with a sense of peace? Grace? Do they feel loved? If not, let’s not advertise something we don’t have. But, if we remain connected and rooted in Jesus’ life as our source, good fruit will eventually come.