The Light of Joy

One of the things about the Christmas season that I get very excited about is lights. I love the look of houses outlined in tiny specks of shimmering light, whether they are white, green, red or blue, I love them all. I enjoy driving home from somewhere and seeing how many houses are embellished with twinkling splendor. Now don’t judge me, but I also enjoy seeing Christmas trees inside people’s homes. It’s not that I am being nosy. After all, don’t we put our trees in windows for that purpose, so the outside world can see our beautiful displays of light?

Pixabay

Pixabay

What is it about light that we so enjoy? I know that most of us would rather be out and about when it is day time. We enjoy when morning comes and feel loss at the slipping away of light as night time takes over. I personally have to convince myself that darkness is good and God allows the darkness so that we may rest. What I find fascinating about this God of ours is that He didn’t leave us in total darkness. He provided, even before sin became a reality, He provided the moon and the stars to rule the night, so even in darkness the light is still meant to preside.

Pixabay

Pixabay

There is a lesson here for us, if we are willing to see it. Light is always present even in the darkness. Darkness is, for lack of a better definition, the absence of light. But even in the deepest and darkest dark, somewhere there is still light. If we lost all electricity, the sun would still rule the sky by day and the moon and stars by night. As long as God allows the planets, stars, moons and sun to hang in space, there will always be light. What if those things disappear, or burn out? What if there is nothing left, but darkness? That will never be the case, because God is light and in Him there is no darkness.

Pixabay

Pixabay

When we think of Christmas we often have images of children playing, laughing and looking with awe and wonder at the lights and decorations. Can you even imagine a Christmas without the idea of child like joy being a part of it? I realize, not everyone grew up with wonder filled Christmases like many of us did. Some of you may not even celebrate Christmas or may think of it as merely an overly commercialized holiday meant to line the pockets of corporate America. Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, I think most of us can relate to the idea of joy.

Pixabay

Pixabay

Joy is often misunderstood. It is regularly mistaken for happiness, but joy is eternal, whereas happiness is temporary. Let me see if I can explain this in a way that makes sense. Joy is light. Joy comes out in dazzling displays like fireworks and rocket launches, but it also twinkles like Christmas lights and candle flames. The difference is that when the fireworks and rockets are burned out and the Christmas lights break and the flame smokes, joy still shines. The reason for this came in the form of a bundled baby boy, born in a stable over two thousand years ago.

Pixabay

Pixabay

No matter how deep the darkness is, joy still shines. There is no darkness or evil thorough enough to overcome joy. You might not feel like you have joy right now. Maybe you feel like you have never had joy, but you know those moments that bring tears to your eyes; those moments are shimmers of joy. You experience them when a movie has a happy ending or a musical movement runs together into a river of sound so beautiful it sweeps you along with it. You experience it when you come upon a breathtaking view or stand at the water’s edge when the sun begins its descent into a cloudless sea. This is joy.

Pixabay - nativity

Then when life tries to break you and you cannot hear the music or see the sunset, that is when you must reach back and in, deeper and deeper, to the event where joy first burst onto the scene of humanity. A virgin birth. Shepherds watching their flocks. Animals in the stable. A straw filled manger. This event was and is and evermore shall be the birth of joy. At that moment joy moved from happiness to an eternal possibility. Joy became the essence of bliss.

If you believe in that light, then even when all is dark, all you have to do is call his name. Jesus. And that light of joy will explode, once again in your soul and the darkness will scatter.

Beauty from Ash

There it was. A single, dark green leaf, beginning to unfurl. It had been conceived in darkness. A tiny seed that lay dormant, not dead, merely asleep in the cozy warmth of the dark earth. While it was sleeping the dragon had done his damage. He had ravaged the landscape, burning every tree and every living thing until all was nothing but ash. He thought he had destroyed life, but what he had meant for death, the One had meant for life. 

The ash lay heavy on the earth. It became, not a grave blanket of death, but a rich, comforting layer of warmth and nutrients. Gradually, over time, the rains came and the ash cooled and lingering life seeped into the black earth below. 

Pixabay

Pixabay

The seed drank the death life and began to swell. Swollen and full, it opened, releasing a shoot into the fertile soil above. Pushing, struggling, reaching, it climbed upward. It knew, above the darkness there was light and the light was what it wanted. The light was what it needed. The shoot didn't know how it knew, but it knew it had to reach for the light. It knew the light would help it grow. It knew the light would give it life.

Pixabay

Pixabay

Soon the pushing, struggling and reaching paid off. At the very tip of it's furthest point the shoot felt an odd sensation, warmth. It had only ever known the coolness of the earth in which it lay. It had only ever known the darkness, but now...now it reached. With one last ambitious push it poked through the earth and ash and found the light.  

*          *          *          *           *

Are we not like the seed? Were we not conceived in darkness? Did we not, when we were full with the nutrients of our mother's womb, the womb that would die after our life, death life, did we not move toward the light? We knew when it was time, as our mother's womb knew when it was time to help us, push, and reach and struggle, that we must find the light. We needed the light. 

Pixabay

Pixabay

Why then, when we know the light is good, do we stop seeking it? Why, when we know the light gives us life and helps us grow, do we we hide from it? Why do we prefer to cover ourselves back up with the dragon's ash, trying to hide rather than growing to the potential that the One had meant for us? 

It is because we are afraid. 

Do not fear the light, or the One from which the light has its source. Rather, push, struggle, reach for Him. He will tend you like a tender shoot and raise you up into a mighty tree.

He alone can bring beauty from ash. 

(Written by Amy D. Christensen)

 

What Trees Say to Me

I often find wonderful lessons in the things that God has created. Take trees for instance. Have you ever noticed that trees stand with their arms constantly uplifted? I know they are not arms, but branches. Isn't it cool that when a tree grows it reaches for the sky. Obviously there are scientific reasons for this, such as the tree's need for light. The tree grows toward the source of light. Of course, if you believe in a Creator, then you probably would agree that God not only made the tree so that it would grow toward the light, but made it so that it could teach us lessons. What sort of lessons can we learn from a tree?

Pixabay - tree

1. Make your roots deep. Trees that have deep roots are better able to stand in the devastating storms that come along. In the past few years we have had a few strong storms come through our town. In the aftermath it is not uncommon to see pine trees laying across yards and roadways. Pine trees have shallower roots. It is harder for them to stand when the winds are fiercely blowing. So too, in our lives, the deeper we grow our roots into Christ and His word, the better we will fair when the strong winds of difficulty sweep through our lives. 

pixabay - tree roots

2. Grow towards the light. As I said before, trees and all green plants will grow toward the source of light. Put a plant in the window and watch which way the leaves and flowers turn after a few days time. Or try moving the plant away from the window and see what happens. Plants need light. We need light as well. Not just the sunshine, but the light of truth and the light of a relationship with Jesus. Without light we will stop growing and spiritually we would eventually die. The light of Christ and His truth gives us the necessary nutrients and energy we need for growth. 

Pixabay - autumn trees

3. Lift your branches up. The trees remember to praise God so why do we so easily forget? What happens when the storms come? The trees bend and sway, but their arms stay lifted up. If something as simple as a tree can keep its branches lifted up, as if in praise to God, even when the storms blow, then we can lift our hearts, hands and voices to Him also, when life gets difficult. I know from personal experience that this is not an easy task. There are times I would much rather curl into a ball to wait out the storm, rather than standing firm with my arms uplifted in praise to Him. However, God gives the strength, just as He enables the tree to stand in the mighty gale.

Pixabay - tree

4. Produce fruit. Whether it be the beautiful leaves that help produce the oxygen we breath, the nuts that fall to the ground in the fall or the many fruits from apples to oranges, cherries to peaches, all trees produce some sort of fruit. This begs me to ask the question, what sort of fruit am I producing? Am I a growing, living tree, producing beautiful leaves that bring life, hope and shade to a world that is weary and worn? Am I bearing fruit that is accessible for all to pick and enjoy? Are my words, my actions, my thoughts and my life bearing the image of the One who created all living things?  

Pixabay - fruit on the tree

5. Be the tree God made you to be. Not all trees are the same. There are so many varieties, shapes and sizes. No two, even in the same family are exactly the same. Look at one maple tree compared to another. Every branch is different. Every leaf is different. Not every tree serves the same purpose. There are hundreds of species of shade trees. There numerous fruit trees....just think of all the different kinds of apples we have. You are just exactly who God made you to be. Are you perfect? No! None of us are. God created you for His purposes. And just as a tree doesn't question how God made it, we can choose to thank God for how He made us and follow His lead to lift our arms in praise to Him in fair weather and foul.

He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers.
— Psalm 1:3 (NASB)
The righteous man will flourish like the palm tree, He will grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
— Psalm 92:12
The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, And he who is wise wins souls.
— Proverbs 11:30 (NASB)
“For you will go out with joy And be led forth with peace; The mountains and the hills will break forth into shouts of joy before you, And all the trees of the field will clap their hands.
— Isaiah 55:12 (NASB)
For each tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they pick grapes from a briar bush.
— Luke 6:44 (NASB)