Last Thursday, in "Decorating for Christmas, Part 2", we saw when we look at a nutcracker, we can be reminded that Jesus is our "nutcracker", and we have access to this incomprehensible power simply by accepting His ultimate gift, the one we celebrate this Christmas.

As I shifted my focus from the nutcrackers to the Christmas tree, my attention was drawn to the lights. Our Christmas tree is artificial, and it is classified as "pre-lit". This means that hundreds of tiny white lights are permanently attached to the branches, and all I have to do to have a perfectly lit tree is to set it up and plug it in.

Or at least, that's all I have to do in theory...

You see, when we plugged in the tree lights for the tree's second Christmas season, there was an entire band, approximately .5 meters high that was completely unlit. The beautiful white lights sparkled at the top and bottom of the tree, but in the middle, all was dark.

The tree was still under warranty at the time, and I wrote to the company. I was delighted that they said they would take care of the problem; but horrified when their "solution" was to send me a string of lights! I had to get into the tree, find the exact string of lights that was not working, unfasten each of the tiny bulbs from the tree branches and attach the new light string in their place.

After hours of tedious work, the tree was again a thing of beauty, radiating sparkling lights from the top all the way to the bottom.

A couple of years later, the same thing happened again, only this time, the tree was no longer under warranty...Yes, I could have gone out and purchased a new string of white lights, but all I could remember were the hours of monotony required to put in the new string. With the busy holiday season, I couldn't see spending the time or money to do that, and that year our tree was "striped".

Quite naturally, the tree didn't "fix" itself in its box throughout the next year, and when we pulled it out for the next Christmas season, the broken lights from the previous year not only didn't work, but there was another band of unlit tree near the top. Now I truly had a "striped" Christmas tree!

After Christmas that year, we bought some strings of coloured lights on sale, and the next Christmas season, we draped those bare spots with coloured lights. The tree wasn't nearly as pretty as before, but at least it didn't have any dark spots; and this is how we have used the tree for the past several years.

As I arranged the coloured lights over the black-out areas of the tree this year, it made me think of a verse in the Bible: "You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." (Matt 5:14-16)

You see, when Christ lives in us, each of us become like that pre-lit Christmas tree, all ablaze for His glory. We are that town that cannot be hidden. Unfortunately, however, there may be areas in our lives where we do not let that light shine forth. Maybe we are not shy about talking about our faith to fellow Christians or on the Internet, but at work or school, we tend to have a "shut mouth" attitude. Perhaps even our actions don't portray that we are God's children. As a result, we become like my poor artificial "pre-lit" tree, with bright, beautiful lights at the bottom, followed by a band of darkness, then more beautiful lights, and then another band of darkness! How much more beautiful that "tree" of our lives would be if we were not trying to hide our "lights" under a bowl, but putting them forth on a stand to give light to everyone in our circles!

It's true that I have tried to cover the bare spots with other lights, and in the same way, God does this as well. When we are tight-mouthed about our faith in the work field, He puts in other lights to show the way. But it isn't the same. My tree is not beautiful like it once was, despite the addition of coloured lights. That is because God has created each of US to shine for Him in all situations.

I think that this is the last season for our poor "striped" Christmas tree. In fact, we already bought its replacement when it went on sale last month, and it sits in its box for the next Christmas season. This reminds me of another text: "He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful." (John 15:2). I don't know about you, but I don't want to be "cut off" from Jesus. I desire to shine forth in every area of my life.

Father God, help us to shine forth Your light in all areas of our lives, that we may truly be the light of the Earth.

And the next time you look at a Christmas tree, all lit up with its beautiful tiny bulbs, remember that it is only pretty when all the lights are working!

Please join us next Tuesday to see what lessons can be learned from the decorating crew in "Decorating for Christmas, Part 5".

In His love,
Lyn

Lynona Gordon Chaffart, Speech-Language Pathologist, mother of two, Author -- "Aboard God's Train -- A Journey With God Through the Valley of Cancer", Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, and Scriptural Nuggets, a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, with Answers2Prayer Ministries. Follow Lyn on Twitter @lynchaffart.

(To access the entire "Decorating for Christmas" mini-series, please click here.)