How Putting Up the Christmas Tree Turned into a Teachable Moment

I don’t know if it was the colder temperatures and the snow that we had in early October, or something else, but my kids have been waiting impatient to get past fall and on to Christmas.

We celebrated Thanksgiving with my in-laws, enjoyed every moment, and got home late. I took Precious #4 into town with me to pick up a co-op order, and we hit a few of the Black Friday Sales.  I survived.  I hate the crowds, the lines, and the hype.  I may win the award for the shopper who spent the least $. Maybe.

When I got home, I found the other “kids” had been deep cleaning, and organizing the living room, WITHOUT BEING ASKED!!!  Wow.  They know me too well.  They knew that if they asked to put up Christmas decor, I would tell them we have to clean first.  🙂

So we have a head start, and my hubby was so surprised when he came home and realized he didn’t have to haul all those boxes up the stairs or assemble the tree.  It’s all done.  He could enjoy helping with the ornaments, read us the story of Christ’s birth, and relax!

The little one was so cute.  She’d pick up an ornament, take a sibling by the hand, and then point out the branch she wanted to place it upon.  She was having so much fun!

Decorating the tree

I had just listened to an interview on the Christian radio, where Phil Vischer explained how our Christmas tree was originally a tradition that was adopted by the Germans in the 16th century when they abandoned their pagan beliefs and came to Christ.  The tree symbolized eternal life because evergreen needles stay, and don’t die.  The branches of the tree point heavenward, and a monk later taught them about the Trinity using the three corners of the tree.  Of course, I couldn’t wait to share all this with my kids!

On to decorating…I put the star on the tree, and my oldest daughter and I were stringing lights.  We used an old string of lights and a new one, and while we were working, the old set had half the lights dimming and another problem had half the lights turning off completely!  I had to figure out how to fix the settings and get all those lights working together.  The littles were watching, and asking me, “What’s wrong with this picture?” And the thought came to me…

What if we thought of this tree as the Body of Christ, while it’s sitting in our dark living-room which represents the world?

And what if we see all these bulbs as the individuals who make up the Body?  They are shining, as Paul commanded in Philippians, illuminating the dark with the light of Christ.  They bring light to the whole room.  These small lights are pointing to the Head of our Body, who is Christ, and is represented by the star which shines brighter than all.  And isn’t that perfect since Christ is called the Bright and Morning Star?

Our Christmas star is plugged into the Power source (the outlet), just as Christ is one with His Father.  The lights strands are plugged into the star so that electricity flows to the light bulbs and powers their light, just as Christ said for us to abide in Him, so that the Holy Spirit can make our lives fruitful.

What happens when one of the light bulbs is disconnected from the strand?  The light given off by the tree is diminished considerably since other lights are hand-capped by that absence.  This is such a perfect way to illustrate 1 Corinthians 12, where Paul introduces Spiritual Gifts and explains how the whole Body suffers when one member suffers…  If we are not cooperating with God’s plan by choosing to exercise our Spiritual Gifts, we do cripple the functioning of this Church Body.  It can’t work at full capacity without our participation, which can also illustrate what happens when Believers stop meeting together as talked about in Hebrews 10, and do not join in worship and service with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

And if we are not getting along with one another?

Or we make choices that grieve the Holy Spirit, our “electricity”, who supernaturally powers us to shine?

Or if we make choices that result in ill health, whether emotional OR physical, which cause an inability to serve?

~Then we also cripple the effectiveness of the Church, since God designed us to work together in unity.  Without us, the Church cannot shine as brightly.~

Brothers and sisters, we need God, and we are also designed to need one another.

How putting up the Christmas tree turned into a teachable moment

While unplugging and re-plugging light strands, removing and replacing bulbs, and playing with the dimmer switch on these newfangled lights… my kids grasped, for a few moments, how important they are to the Church Body, and to bringing Jesus’ light to the world…. and this teachable moment is one we can refer back to throughout the year, and relive again next Christmas.

I think we have a new tree-trimming tradition. 😉

 

Who is the Holy Spirit?

“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”  John 15:5

~This devotional was used by our women’s group in conjunction with a study from Elizabeth George’s book, A Woman’s Walk With God, Growing in the Fruit of the Spirit.  To find more devotionals on the Fruit of the Spirit, visit this page.~

As we’ve been studying the Fruit of the Spirit, we’ve been acknowledging that it is only available through the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  Only those who have accepted Jesus’s gift of forgiveness and salvation have access to the Spirit.  This Fruit, or Godly Character, is the evidence of salvation and an ongoing relationship with Jesus.

There is absolutely no way we can live the Christian life on our own.  It’s impossible!!  God knows it’s impossible.  That is why Jesus told the disciples that it was to their advantage that he go away.  He explained to them, as they grieved the idea of his leaving, that if he didn’t go away, the Helper would not come to them.  “but if I go, I will send Him to you.” John 16:7

Holy Spirit dove photo

Jesus did return to heaven, after His death and resurrection.  Today, we as Believers are privileged to have this Helper, the Holy Spirit, in our lives.

I don’t remember the Holy Spirit being discussed much when I was growing up.  As an adult, I developed a hunger to understand who he is, and have intentionally studied to learn more about him.  Since scripture teaches that he is part of God, and a gift to all Believers, we really should want to be able to recognize Him and his handiwork.

There are several books out there that talk about the Holy Spirit.  However, the book that I have enjoyed the most is Charles Stanley’s, The Wonderful Spirit Filled Life.  He basically pools the scripture that speaks about the Holy Spirit, and when taken in all together, it paints a clear picture about His personality and purpose, and Stanley focuses in on what it looks like to live out our faith with the Spirit’s help.

Charles Stanley uses this illustration to explain the Holy Spirit’s role:

Jesus said He is the vine, and we are the branches.  The Holy Spirit, then, is like the sap that runs from the vine into the branches, carrying the power of God into our lives to will and to work for His glory.  It is HE who is responsible for producing fruit in our lives, not us.  We simply bear fruit through ABIDING, and in yielding to His will.  

In other words, God bears the burden of responsibility for producing fruit in our lives.  We just aren’t capable on our own. Our responsibility is to remain in Him and submit to what HE wants to do in our lives.  A seed doesn’t bear a crop unless the gardener plants and tends it.  When the seed does germinate, it doesn’t choose what to bear.  Its fruit reflects the identity of what the plant is meant to be… it is what it is, and completely dependent on the gardener to weed, feed, and prune it to yield a harvest.

We are children of God, and we’re meant to reflect God’s character for the world to know HIM.

If the pressures and temptations in our life push us into reaction mode, it’s a sign that we’re trying to produce righteousness on our own.  If we’re trying to do the producing  instead of just being the vessels that do the bearing, we’re going to be frustrated by failure, and we won’t experience the Peace that God means for us to have.

So who is the Holy Spirit?

  • He was present when God created the world. “and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. Genesis 1:2-3
  • He is part of the Trinty of God: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit, in whose image mankind was created. Genesis 1:26
  • He is God’s official mark on us, as believers, when we are saved.  “After listening to the gospel of your salvation-having also believed, you were sealed in Him (Christ) with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance…Ephesians 1:13-14

What does it mean to be sealed with the Holy Spirit?  Being sealed is a sign that Believers belong to God.  It is a sign of the security and protection and inheritance (eternity with God in paradise) that we have in Christ.  When God looks at us, He sees the Holy Spirit.  So do all the other spirits out there.

What are some aspects of the Holy Spirit’s personality?

He is knowledgeable.  1 Corinthians 2:11,12 states, “For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him?  Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God.  Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit… The Holy Spirit knows the thoughts of God and imparts knowledge to believers.  He gives us the “mind of Christ”.

He has a mind and a will of His own.  In 1 Corinthians 2:11, the apostle Paul is teaching the believers at the church in Corinth about Spiritual gifts (this is different than the Fruit of the Spirit).  “But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.”  emphasis mine.

The Holy Spirit has emotion. In Ephesians 4:30, Paul tells the believers in Ephesus not to grieve the Holy Spirit.  And in Romans 15:30, Paul mentions the “love of the Spirit, or love given by the Spirit.”  Grief and love are emotions.

What are the roles of the Holy Spirit?

He Convicts. ~  “And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgement.”  John 16:8-11

He illuminates. ~ “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.” John 16:12-15

He searches the mysteries of God and reveals them to the saints.  these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.  The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.1 Corinthians 2:10

He teaches and reminds.  “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, who the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.”  John 16:12-15 AND John 14:26

He guides.  “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.“emphasis mine  Romans 8:14

He asssures.  “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God,” Romans 8:16

He intercedes and prays.  He helps us and does the will of God.  “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.  And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” Romans 16:26-27

He directs and He warns.  The Holy Spirit directed Paul, testifying to him daily, and warns him of the suffering that he was going to endure.  Acts 20:22

He communicates with us“While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”  Acts 13:2

How the Holy Spirit communicates with us today can vary according to the person and the circumstances, but He very much still does speak to individuals.

He produces Godly character 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.Galations 5:22-23

He apportions Spiritual Gifts to individual Believers, to be used in the building up of the Church.4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” 1 Corinthians 12:4-12

As we can see from scripture, the Holy Spirit is a thinking, feeling, and active person of God, working together with God the Father and God the Son (Jesus Christ) to bring about their collective will in our lives.

What a wonderful gift God has given us in the person of the Holy Spirit!