Why Leaves (And Christians) Fall

Now is the time of year when streams of tourists travel to forests and mountains in search of beautiful fall colors. Stands of multicolored deciduous trees are indeed a breathtaking sight. But it’s a short-lived sight. Soon after leaves reach their peak of color, they fall to the earth and return to the elements. In a word, death follows beauty.
We take for granted this seasonal change that occurs every year. But what really happens to make leaves fall? In the simplest terms, leaves change color and dry up because the tree withdraws its sap from them. The process is triggered by the shortening length of daylight as winter approaches. It’s a mechanism that ensures the tree’s survival during winter. For a leaf, though, it’s a tragic event. As the sap retreats into the trunk and roots of the tree, the life of the leaf ebbs out.
There is no record of Jesus discussing fall colors while he taught on earth. He did, however, discuss the general principles of life for grapevines, a major agricultural pursuit of the day. What he said about vines also bears on the life and vitality of Christians.
Consider these words of Jesus: “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned” (John 15:4-6, NKJV).
Jesus’ image of a withered branch cast into the fire is similar to that of a leaf that has dropped from the tree. The cause in both cases is the same: the source of nourishment has been cut off. Without the life-giving sap, life cannot continue.
In the case of a tree and its leaves, its the tree that makes the decision to withdraw the nourishment. But that’s not how it works with Christians and their life-enabling vine. When Jesus urges Christians to “abide in me,” he shows that it’s our decision to remain connected or to be severed. God never withdraws the “sap” (the blood of Christ) unless we have first demonstrated our disinterest in it. When that happens, death is sure to follow.
There is good news in this analogy! As long as we choose to cling to the vine (Jesus), nourishment will constantly course through our spiritual veins. “Abide in me,” Jesus invites. To accept that invitation means more than occasional visits to worship. Walking daily with my Lord is my challenge — and my privilege!

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