Winter Trees and Empty Graves

My childhood home area was the Appalachian foothills of northern Pennsylvania, a place aptly nicknamed “the endless mountains” of PA. It’s a landscape of wooded rolling hills capped with untold millions of trees, making for bright greens in spring, deeper emeralds in summer, and spectacular multi-colors in the fall.

Winter, however, is a stark contrast. Grey leafless branches dominate all around, and to the inexperienced observer, it can appear that the forest is “dead.” A newcomer, having endured a few months of this barren panorama, might conclude that life has abandoned the hillsides.

No need to panic, though. Each new year, the dreariness eventually gives way to the return of fresh foliage as the bright greens return in profusion. It is as if the bleak hillsides are overwhelmed with the outbreak of new life.

As we again celebrate the Easter season with its Resurrection Sunday, we have the unique privilege of being messengers of new life and light in the midst of our world’s apparently endless brokenness. An impossibly large stone rolled away from Jesus’ now and forever unoccupied tomb freshly declares the incredible message: “Death has been swallowed up in victory” (1 Corinthians 15:54).

We, as Jesus followers, carry the hope-filled message that death—so inevitably “one hundred percent fatal” for us human beings—does not have the final word. Instead, that Word, Jesus himself, declares in Revelation 1:18, “I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.

Imagine a child, standing at the base of a leafless, dreary, grey January hillside, shouting at the top of his lungs, “You don’t fool me—these winter trees are not dead; life will win!” And beyond imagining, know that all those who trust in Jesus as Savior can stand amidst the brokenness around us and shout to all with ears to hear, “‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Corinthians 15:55-57).

May resurrection hope overflow in your life as you move through this Easter season!

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