By Marcia Lee Laycock

   There's a commercial that has just appeared on T.V. in time for Christmas.
A dad drags a nice looking Christmas tree into his living room and sets it
up in front of his two kids, who are watching with arms loaded with
decorations. They smile as the tree is set straight in its holder. But
then the dad reaches for a pruning tool. He proceeds to trim the entire
bottom half of the tree, leaving only a foot or so of greenery. The look
on the children's faces turns from joy and anticipation to shock and
dismay. The little boy looks like he's about to burst into tears, but the
father does not give any explanation. In fact, he doesn't even acknowledge
the children's presence. He simply walks away.

   Then the scene shifts to Christmas morning. The kids lean over a banister
and stare down in wonder. The living room is full of wrapped gifts, piled
right up to the edge of that last foot left on the top of the tree. They
bound down and dance for joy in front of it.

   Sometimes God acts just like that father, and we act just like those
children. Sometimes God has to prune things from our lives. It may be
painful and seem even cruel. It may leave us in shock and dismay, because
God does not always explain Himself.

   That's when having a relationship with God stands us in good stead. When
we know the God who is at work in our lives, we will trust Him to do what
is right and best for us, even when there is pain and loss involved, even
when we are bewildered and in dismay.
   Then, one day, we will recognize that we have been showered with gifts -
the gifts of faith and forgiveness, of grace and mercy and the most
precious gift of all - salvation.

   All of us must go through times of pruning. But when we know the child who came to earth so long ago, we know that He has the best plan laid out for
us. As He said to the people in the days of Jeremiah - "For I know the
plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to
harm you, plans give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and
come and pray to me and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me
when you seek me with all your heart" (Jeremiah 29:11-13).

 We may suffer the pruning, but, by faith, one day we will dance for joy
before the Lord.


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