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First Pres Blog

One Red Tractor

Posted by Tim McConnell on

“Pastor Tim, why is there a tractor in my church?” Good question.

A Different Agenda

Do you have your to-do list made up? It’s Christmastime and we’re expected to get everything right. Are you “Seizing the Season”? Are you “Winning at Winter”? Are you “Crushing Christmas” this year? That language can be kind of fun when we want to celebrate an effort that went well or a moment we deeply enjoyed with family or friends. But it also expresses a little of the pressure we all feel to make this month Pinterest-worthy or record-setting.

In the middle of our ceaseless attempts to get things done, to achieve, to succeed—in our desperation to unlock the achievement “Killing it at Christmas” or “Hammering the Holidays,” do you think we’re missing something? I think God has a different agenda—that God has it in mind to interrupt our striving and succeeding, our failing and faltering, our “efforting” and longing. I want to suggest that God intends to interrupt our agenda with His own. On God’s agenda for Christmas is one three-letter word: J-O-Y.

The Slow Growth of Joy

Christmas—the birth of Jesus Christ—was an interruption. It was an invasion, in fact. God interrupted the decline and self-destruction of the world and sent His own Son into the world as an infant. Jesus—God— took on flesh and moved into our neighborhood. It was not the next thing on our agenda. It was unexpected. The angels announced it as good news of great joy for all people. The question is, how does this great joy intersect with my life?

Joy is not easy to attain. Joy is not instantly produced. Joy is a fruit. Paul lists it as a fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5. Eugene Peterson writes in his Message Study Bible,

Fruit is the result of a long organic process. This process is complex and intricate. Fruit isn’t something made, manufactured, or engineered. It isn’t the product of drawing boards or committee meetings or sophisticated technologies. It isn’t the invention of a genius. It’s the result of a life of faith that is both germinated and nurtured by God’s Spirit.

Do you know about winter wheat? Seeds sown in late fall germinate as winter wheat. When the frost comes, the young plants go into a kind of hibernation—nearly dead. But when the sun warms the soil again, the wheat that is produced is full of protein, more abundant than normal wheat and better for pasta and cake flour because of the cold winter wait it has survived.

Joy is not something you buy at the store. It isn’t something you fake or sprinkle over your December calendar while you run yourself ragged “Killing it at Christmas.” It is something that grows when you take time to wait and watch, resting in the hope of what Jesus has promised.

Sowing Seeds of Joy

The Scripture says what we sow is what we will reap. “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life,” says Galatians 6:7-8. So it is important to ask: what have you sown? What is germinating and growing under the frozen soil of your life? Have you sown seeds of joy in the Spirit or destructive seeds of selfishness and envy and lust? The time is certainly right to sow spiritual seeds now so that we can know the fruit of the Spirit of Christ in the future. I wonder what you are doing right now to cultivate joy, both in your own life and the lives of those around you.

Here is some good news: In Christ, seeds can be transformed. Jesus saw himself as a seed. He told His disciples, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (John 12:23-25). Jesus tells us that He is the kernel of seed, that when He went to the cross He was starting a transformation process. Once that seed germinated, grew and broke through the surface of the soil, His death would bring life. Your life in His hands is exactly the same. Everything you keep tight in your fist will remain lifeless seed, but everything you scatter and plant, allow to die, allow to be given over to Christ, these things will be redeemed and transformed. That’s why the Psalm is true, saying, “Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them” (Psalm 126:5-6). Seeds planted with tears are transformed in the pierced and loving hands of Jesus, through his own death and resurrection, they are transformed into fruit of joy.

So, there’s a tractor inside the church right now. (No kidding!) One red tractor. It stands as a symbol of breaking the soil and planting the seed. It is a reminder that we are those who sow, and we should sow to the Spirit for fruits of joy in Christ. It is testimony to the waiting and watching soul. It reminds us of the winter wheat frozen in the icy ground, waiting for the sun to return and the green shoots to break out. What has been sown will be reaped, and all that is given over to Christ will be transformed into the fruit of joy. It stands for waiting, watching, longing, hoping that the promises of God will one day soon come true. But it is there for one more reason. It testifies that there is a moment—however long-off it may feel—when it is time to take in the harvest with celebration.

The curse in C. S. Lewis’ Narnia was that it was always winter and never Christmas. It was a land always frozen, always waiting, and never reaching the celebration. Christmas is an interruption of hopelessness, an interruption of God’s own making. It stops our striving in its tracks. It puts the brakes on all our rushing and racing. It says, “Wait! Stop! Look! Here it is! Here it breaks out! Life is breaking up from the frozen soil! Good news! Great joy! All people! To you, Jesus Christ is born a Savior!” Now is the time to celebrate.

So come stand by the tractor. Stop and look. Take a picture with your family or friends. It’s Christmas! It is Time for Joy.

Tags: advent, time for joy, red tractor