Thursday, December 13, 2007

In the Vineyard

Last weekend I was in Bethlehem. Well ok, not the Middle East and not Pennsylvania. Our church created an authentic marketplace in Bethlehem. It was amazing. My job was to tend the vineyard. I got to dress up in a long dress, head covering and veil. I carried about 4 pounds of grapes in a basket and talked to visitors.

As characters in Bethlehem, we were to step back in time and forget all about cell phones and cars. I found myself really having a good time pretending. As visitors walked by my vineyard, I would explain to them about grapevines in Bethlehem. you pretend you're walking by.

"Welcome to my vineyard! Are you in Bethlehem for the census? I don't think I've seen you in the marketplace before. And such fine clothing, you must come from
Egypt or Greece!

Have you ever seen a vineyard like this? My family works very hard on our business. This is a small plot. We have several more acres that my sons watch from the tower over there. We have to be on the lookout at all times for bandits, foxes and vermin.

Where are my vines? Look closely down here...they are laying across these large rocks. We don't have a lot in Bethlehem, and what we do have Rome takes as taxes. But rocks, we do have!

See, the rootstock is planted in the ground. As the vine grows, it is trained up on the rock. You can't let the vine touch the ground because it will try to re-root itself back into the ground. The vine will be so busy trying to grow roots it won't produce the fruit you need. So constant pruning is needed. Oy, it's back breaking work!

After the season, we get a wonderful harvest. Then we cut it back for the winter and wait for spring.

I hope you have a nice visit in Bethlehem. If you cannot find a place to stay, come back and I'll put you to work in the tower. At least you'll have a place to rest your head!"
What got to me about staying in character is the rich message the vineyard tells us. Every so often a visitor would look at me and I'd see the light go on in their eyes. It was amazing to watch. For those that just saw it as an educational message, I wanted so much to explain this parable to them.

So now I've returned from Bethlehem. And I don't have to keep quiet. If you have ears to hear and eyes to on!

In the Bible, Jesus tells us, "I am the vine, you are the branches." (John 15:5) When you become a Christian, Jesus is whom we are grafted to. He is the rootstock, we are the branches.

We have a problem though. The world is so appealing to us; we're constantly reaching for it. Sometimes we get caught up in the world and it's offerings and we find ourselves rooted and stuck. That's when our productive Christian life dries up--we stop producing fruit. (Galatians 5:22)

" Father is the vinedresser" (John 15:1b) If we allow God to come along and lift our branches out of the dirt, He will prune us back. This is the sting of discipline. But be assured, He only disciplines those He loves. (Hebrews 12:6) So if you've had a season of pruning--know you are loved!

Finally God is also called, "the rock". (Psalm 95:1) As we grow and reach, we find that the only way to keep from being rooted to this world is to keep leaning on the rock.

So when you feel a little dusty and dry, remember that you are a vine, grafted into the vital rootstock of Jesse: Jesus. God will keep you lifted up, pruned back, and fruitful--it's up to you to be willing to be grafted. (Let's talk if you're not sure about where you are with God.)

This Christmas may a simple vineyard in Bethlehem turn a light on in your soul.

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