A Lesson From Beneath the Christmas Tree

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It’s Christmastime, and my Christmas wouldn’t be complete without church. We’re blessed to belong to a great church (not perfect, but great), and Christmas is just one of the many special times when we push pause on everything and go to the house of the Lord.

I realize that church is not this way for everyone.  Many people have had less than pleasant experiences with church. To be completely honest, I have also had less than pleasant experiences in my church (remember I said that it wasn’t perfect). But as I’ve trusted God through those times, the not-so pleasant experiences have somehow made me appreciate the church its necessary place in my life.

We need the church, and the church needs us, and that’s the way God designed for things to be. His Word is clear that we need to come together for worship, encouragement, strength, and faith. And He promises that, as we do, He will mold and shape our lives into exactly what they were created to be.

In other words, we can’t become all we were meant to be without the church – without both receiving from and contributing to it as God leads. I recognize that not all churches are great. But God still desires for us to show up, and our destiny still requires that we don’t give up. Church matters more than we’d like to think it does.

That being said, church isn’t all that matters.

As I sat in our Christmas Eve service yesterday, I noticed a young woman I knew by family acquaintance.  I know her story, because I know her family well. And as much as I loved the service and encountered the love of God in it, I couldn’t help but wonder whether it was touching her heart…her broken places. Because of the prayers and preparations that went into the service, I trusted that she was also encountering God’s love in the gift of Jesus, but then I began to wonder if that would be enough. Before you cringe at that statement, let me explain…

Church is like coffee for me….kind of a jumpstart to my week. It feels good. It helps. I walk away with greater clarity and strength to face the rest of life each time I choose to go…and this is all a part of God’s plan. But I don’t drink coffee just once a week. And I don’t go to church seven days a week. So if church is all I have going for me spiritually, I am not going to grow very much.  In fact, it’s pretty unlikely that I will even survive.

So I wondered if encountering the love of God on a Sunday morning Christmas service would be enough to help that young lady whose story I knew. Not because God’s love might not be enough, but because she might not know that we need His love every day, not just once a week or once a year. The Christmas tree provides a perfect illustration for this truth.

This week I noticed that the beautiful tree we purchased is starting to melt.  It’s dying, and so the needles are falling off – leaving bare patches, and the branches are beginning to droop and sag. Just a couple of weeks ago, the tree was one we were proud of, and now it is one I almost feel a little embarrassed about.  As I crawled beneath it to check for water, I realized it hadn’t yet run dry, even though I’d only filled the stand up once since we’ve had it. So either the tree is not absorbing the water, or the water is not enough to sustain the life of the tree. Either way, the tree is not going to live beyond Christmas.

Suddenly, right there beneath my dying Christmas tree, things became so clear. Jesus said that we must abide in the vine, meaning we must remain united and attached to His very life. This happens through relationship, not just church. If all we ever get is a little water on our roots, a little encouragement and a sprinkle of hope here and there when we decide to show up to a service, we are going to start looking like my Christmas tree. In order to stay alive and healthy, beautiful and strong in our faith – like my tree was when I picked it out – church must be a continuation of the encounter we are already having with the Living God (or the catalyst that leads us to seek more and more of His presence)… Just like a tree has to remain planted in order to stay alive. It’s not enough to just drink in what’s poured over us. We must become deeply rooted in a relationship with God that nourishes our soul daily.

If we aren’t dwelling with God, talking to Him, sharing our lives with Him, then church will not be enough for us. It will be a cup of coffee or a shot in the arm when we most need it, but because it wasn’t meant to carry us, it won’t.  Church was never meant to be enough, because God is the only One Who will ever truly be enough to satisfy us and to keep us fully alive.

The young lady I saw yesterday needs the church, but the church isn’t what’s going to heal her. The church is there to love her, so that she will feel safe enough to stay long enough to let God convince her heart that He loves her and desires for her to live in Him….so that He can give her life, and not just encounter.

Dear Woman of Breakthrough, are you living with occasional encounters, when God has intended for you to be planted deep within His love? Has church become something it was never intended to be for you – just an occasional drink of water?

This is why Jesus came: so that He could live with us, and we could live with Him, constantly. So that we could remain connected, as the grapes that grow on the vine. So that we will live the most amazing life imaginable. So that we would know Him, Immanuel, the God Who is always with us.

Don’t just water your roots once in a while and hope to make it through the season you’re in. That is nothing more than mere survival, and survival has an expiration date. Dive into God’s presence – because He has extended a fresh invitation through Jesus – and dare to desire His fullness in your life.

Merry, Merry Christmas to you, Dear Woman of Breakthrough. May you receive the revelation of More today, and may you seek Him for the fulfillment of that more by abiding in His presence and growing closer to Him through daily relationship.

{Photo Images courtesy of http://www.pixabay.com}

 


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