My Christmas tree is somewhat of a prodigy.

The very first Christmas we were married, my husband and I bought this cheap little pre-lit tree. I think it might have been $60 on sale from Wal-Mart. That's five years ago now, and the lights haven't been replaced a single time. Amazing. Most pre-lit trees, at least the ones I've heard about from my family and friends, last maybe three years before the strings start burning out.

I was actually having that very conversation with my mother a few weeks ago, and she said she bets they've lasted so long because I always worked full time, so my tree was only turned on for a few hours in the evening when my husband and I were home together.

Well, this is my first Christmas as a stay-at-home mother, and my tree stays lit almost all day long. If we're home, which is most of the time, it's ablaze in all its green and golden glory.

That is, until last week, when the top strand of lights burned out.

Figures, I thought.

For a week, I moped to my husband about it. He used to be an electrician; surely he could do something, right? "My tree is sad," I'd say. And it was. It just looked mellow, all bright and stuffed full of ornaments and memories from the years — except for the top.

He fiddled with it one night for a little while, and came to the conclusion that he'd have to go light by light through the entire string -- which could take hours -- or he could go to the store and buy a short strand to drape around the dead bulbs. I didn't like that idea, because then the lights wouldn't be spaced evenly on the top compared to the rest of the tree. Plus, it's hard to find short strings around here -- the extras I found in the closet were 127 ft! At that point we'd have to wrap the entire tree and, with the additional lights, well, it'd probably be visible from Mars. I don't know about you, but I prefer admiring my tree without the need for sunglasses.

I kept whining about my sad tree, but to no avail. Two days before Christmas, there it still stood, tall and straight lit and beautiful—except for the highest portion by the star topper.

And now it's teaching me a lesson.

Are all my lights burning for Christ?

As the bustle and hustle of 2009 passes us by, leaving a trail of wrapping paper and bows, I must ask myself, did I shine as brightly as I could have? Will I look back with regret? Will I see opportunities in hindsight where I could have spoken up for Christ, yet remained dimly silent? Did others see the light of Jesus in my words and actions this year?

In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16

Matthew 5:16I don't want to enter into 2010 with regrets. I want a clean start and renewed bulbs. My husband might not have wanted to go bulb by bulb over the top strands, searching for the culprit, but I want to go bulb by bulb through my life. One little sin can dim an entire tree. Have you investigated your light strands lately? Is there one little bulb keeping you drenched in shadows?

Next year, my sad tree will be boxed away and a new one will replace the saggy branches and tired bulbs. That's fine, that's what happens. Nothing on this earth can last forever.

But I don't want to be replaced as a Christian. I don't want God to stop giving me opportunities for His work because I was irresponsible with my last assignments. I know I have His full love regardless, but I want my lights burning at full capacity, not weak and fading in the night. I want others to see the glow within me and crave it for themselves, finding peace and forgiveness with Christ for their New Year. I want to burn for the Kingdom of God! And not just at the holidays - but all year long.

As wonderful as my tree has been these past five years, it's just a fact that a fully lit tree is more appealing to the eye than a half-lit attempt. And the same goes for us as Christians. If we're not walking with the Lord and glowing from His glory, then how will others see the path to follow?

Which tree will you be in 2010?  

December 29, 2009

Betsy Ann St. Amant resides in northern Louisiana with her hubby and newborn daughter. She has a bachelor's degree in Christian Communications from Louisiana Baptist University and is actively pursuing a career in inspirational writing. Look for RETURN TO LOVE, Betsy's first novel with Steeple Hill Love Inspired, today. You may contact Betsy at betsystamant@yahoo.com.