When I get really high in an oak tree, I notice things the average person would never see. I also have a trained eye when I'm up there because I'm looking for dead wood to trim from the tree. Sometimes the dead wood is really obvious because the bark is pealed off. Sometimes it's obvious because there's no buds on the end of the branch. And other times it's obvious because a fungus has grown on the bark and it looks different that all the other branches. But there's also branches that have buds from last year, though they've died. You actually can score (scrape) the branch with your hand saw to see if it's green (alive) or brown (dead or declining). Keep in mind very little of this can be seen from the ground. You need to get on top of the branches and up close and personal to decide what comes out.
Dead wood is a part of a tree's life. There's various reasons a limb may be dying or declining, but inevitably some branches will die and they need to be removed. Isn't the same true of life? Wouldn't you agree that there are areas of one's life that have died, or are declining, and need to be removed? In the Bible Jesus says
"Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away. And every one that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bring forth more fruit." (John 15:2)We have dead limbs that need to be taken out. And we have live limbs that need to be pruned so that they produce more fruit.
Are there areas in your life that aren't bearing fruit? This Christmas season is about "goodwill towards men." Do you have that? Or are there branches in your life that need to be pruned away because they're dead? Maybe you have good limbs that need pruning so that they'll produce more and better fruit.
I think I have a little of both. I'm certainly bearing some good fruit. But I have dead wood that needs to be removed. I have habits that need to break - sinful actions of thought, word and deed that died when I committed my life to Christ. Yet they still linger in my life. I also have live limbs that are alive and healthy, but they need to be pruned so that they can continue to produce fruit. This is where this lesson gets tough for me. I have too many irons in the fire. I need to focus on the important branches, the branches that will produce the most fruit (in relation to my direction in life). This means some good things need to be pruned away. It's not to say that they won't come back later in life, but right now I need to be focused on establishing family and career. If it doesn't produce fruit in those two areas, it probably needs to be pruned away.
As you reflect on the end of the year and the season of giving and goodwill, what branches in your life are dead and need to be removed? What branches are alive but need to be pruned so that they produce more fruit?