Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Christmas Stump

by Danetta Kellar

The olive tree had been planted over one hundred years before as a tiny sapling.

Its tender root had held all the hope and promise of harvest and provision for the years to come. Now, it stood strong and tall, growing at an angle, grabbing for the blue patch of sky above the old stone walls that enclosed my small North African garden. It had held true to its potential, annually bearing kilos and kilos of bright green olives. 

Harvest time was a community affair. We threw open the garden gates and invited our friends as we picked the olives, sliced, salted, and brined them for their long hibernation toward tenderness. 

Only one thing bothered me about the olive tree. Apparently, it had emerged from the earth in two strong branches. One rose to the sky, bearing the fruit we enjoyed. The other had been chopped off long ago by the previous owners, leaving a rough and splintery stump. My children often stood on the stump as they climbed the tree. They also fell on it, tripped over it, and skinned knees and chins. It was a nuisance, an unnecessary eyesore. I wanted it gone, but there was no way to remove it.
One Christmas I was feeling rather sorry for myself because I was so far away from home. There was no outward sign of Christmas in that land, and I was longing for Christmas lights, radio carols, and the sparkle of Christmas cheer on city streets. Determined to create my own Christmas joy, I scoured my garden for greenery that might deck our halls and lift our spirits. The rubber tree was a beautiful shiny green, and I cut an armful of branches. 

Then I noticed the stump. Suddenly, for a reason I could not understand, it had sprouted hundreds of tender green shoots. 

It looked like a celebration, a bottle of champagne just uncorked and bursting with joy. 

I had lived through many seasons with this olive tree and its barren twin stump. The stump had never sprouted before.

From the stump of Jesse…the ancient words of Isaiah, prophesying the coming Messiah, resounded in my mind. 

Running to my Bible, I searched for these golden words, the words that I knew somehow held a Christmas message for me evidenced within in the tender branches of our unwanted olive tree stump.

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord— Isaiah 11:1-3 
In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious. Isaiah 11:10 
And again, Isaiah says, “The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; in him the Gentiles will hope.” Romans 15:12

In a land where there seemed to be no harvest, a place of apparent barrenness, a Shoot appeared to save mankind. His name was Jesus, and He was promised long before that first cold Christmas night. 

I lived in a land much like the one to which He came. The nation and its people were still covered in the darkness of toil and anticipation. The message of the Good News rose upon it like hope.

I often felt despair as I looked at the lack of spiritual harvest in the lives of those around me. I was discouraged that Christmas. Until I saw the message proclaimed by those tender branches growing out of the old stump.

God used life springing from an olive stump I assumed to be barren to remind me my reason to hope at Christmastime. 

Life can look worthless, rough-hewn and chopped down to ugliness. Season after season faced with the same dissapointment, we begin to get in the habit of expecting nothing from the dreams we once planted with anticipation.

Christmas defied dissapointment. It pushed through the old wood of our past and offered new life for mankind.

What in your life looks like a barren stump? Something you trip over? An eyesore, a nuisance? Have you lost your hope? 

There is hope in the root of Jesse, for from it springs the Savior of mankind. He came at Christmas, and He turned our stump of despair into a tree of life.

Merry Christmas, and hope to you this year, dear readers.


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