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The brightest bulb on the tree


The Life Less Traveled


December 03, 2014
When our second child was born, we bought a pre-lit tree in an attempt to guard our sanity. With two kids running around the house, we were lucky to keep everyone fed and bathed, let alone put up Christmas lights. It seemed liked a good idea at the time.

The pre-lit tree worked great the first couple of years, but after months stuffed away in our shed, the lights started going out. That's when I realized what we really needed was a post-lit tree, one the store would come out and fix every time a strand went black.

But until I find one of those, it's my job to track down the bad lights. This would be hard enough if we used a normal amount of decorations, but our tree is more Vegas than that. We like the season merry and really, really bright.

So, that means every November I have to burrow into a complex web of wires and branches to find where each dark strand begins and ends. This mess has become so tangled through the years that I usually pack a first-aid kit and flares in case I get lost.

I start the process with a dose of patience the size of Santa's sleigh. A couple of hours into it, though, I usually just lose it and start yanking wires. I was making great progress this year when my wife pointed out that I'd started removing strands that were working.

Sheesh. Maybe it was time to get a new tree because this one had just become a lost cause.

Of course, fresh starts and lost causes are pretty much what Christmas is all about.

I don't know about you, but sometimes my life, like those lights, just feels like a tangled mess. Complicated relationships, fear, failure and all kinds of problems short circuit my joy and darken my vision. Like the lights on my pre-lit tree, some areas of life just don't work like they should.

It's all such a jumble, I could never fix it on my own. The solution, however, isn't to replace a broken bulb or two. It's not that I just need to few new strands here and there. What I really need is to start from scratch. I need a whole a new tree.

A follower of Jesus named Paul once said, "Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun" (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Jesus didn't show up in Bethlehem to make our lives a little better. He came that first Christmas to give us a whole new kind of life, a life that is lit by a hope that never goes dark and shines the way through the most tangled problems we face.

I may not be the brightest bulb on the tree, but I do know this: Jesus is the light of the world. As I turn to Him in this Christmas season, I begin to see even the darkest situations in a whole new light.

Jason Byerly, a 1990 graduate of Crawford County Junior-Senior High School, is the children's pastor at Southland Christian Church near Lexington, Ky. He and his wife have two daughters. For more, visit www.jasonbyerly.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/jasondbyerly.

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