Imagination was my childhood sanctuary on those rural drives. With just a little inspiration from the passing Texas landscape, I could fabricate life-like figures from the pages of my mind. I envisioned fanciful deer leaping through rows of cotton upon a summer windshield. In October, I invented a window-wide audition of tiny raindrops, each showcasing their best to dance with Gene Kelly in Singing in the Rain.
But December was my favorite. Mama turned on the radio during that season. As sugar plums danced in my head, I imagined the mesquite trees looking on as imaginary children built snowmen out of nonexistent white powder.
Interrupting my reverie, Mama commented to no one in particular. “The mistletoe is taking over this year,” she said.
“Mistletoe?” I exclaimed. To my budding ten-year-old heart, mistletoe was the perfect ingredient for dreams. When hung prominently, mistletoe caused mothers to kiss Santa, Burl Ives to “oh ho,” and Brenda Lee to rock around sock-hop trees.
Suddenly interested in reality, I queried, “Do we grow mistletoe here?“
Nonplused, Mama remarked matter-of-factly. “Of course. It’s growing in that cedar elm just to our right. It’s the clump of green attached to the branches.“
Surprisingly enough, mistletoe was everywhere once you knew where to look. At this time of year, Mama explained, it was about the only thing green. My imagination took flight like a flock of startled doves. “Can we take some home for decorating?” I petitioned excitedly.
After a moment of quiet deliberation, Mama hesitantly pulled our Buick onto the graveled shoulder of the road and rolled to a stop. Avoiding a barbed-wire fence, she searched for a low-hanging branch and detached a good-sized cluster of mistletoe.
“It’s a parasite that sucks the life out of its host tree,” she said flatly. “Keep in mind that leaving it on the branch too long can kill the tree.”
I was as stunned as if Mama had cussed. Killing a tree on the South Plains is almost a criminal offense. Surely this holiday symbol of romance couldn’t be guilty of such an atrocity.
“We’ll burn it when Christmas is over,” Mama warned as she placed the spiky clump on my lap. “We don’t want this to propagate on our land.”
Staring at the waxy bunch on my knees, I felt grave disappointment. Nothing about this ugly plant conveyed holiday cheer. Close-up, the thick-forking branches held leathery leaves and sickly-colored berries. They reminded me more of tapioca than the vibrant red of holly. When I tried to pluck one of the berries, their sticky pulp oozed onto my fingers and then glued a tissue onto my hand when I wiped at it.
I sat in disgusted silence for the rest of the trip. It was one of the first times I realized that you couldn’t always trust a song.
It’s mistletoe season again. The church has awakened to see parasitic viewpoints cheering the fringe and disdaining the truth. While we daydreamed, the evil one attached to our schools, our commerce, and our government. Now, even our thought-life bears the sticky evidence of anxiety and fear.
But this age-old problem is no surprise for our God. Seven hundred years before Christ, the prophet Isaiah reported, “They say that what is right is wrong and what is wrong is right; that black is white and white is black; bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter (Isaiah 5:20 TLB).
Thankfully, we have a True North Who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). As the Almighty God, He has dominion over everything in heaven and on earth (1 Chronicles 29:11). “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh; is anything too difficult for Me?” (Jeremiah 32:27)
Our God of encouragement is also the God of hope (Romans 15:5,13). As Charles Spurgeon says, “He cannot have caused us to hope without reason. If our hope is based on His Word, we have a sure basis upon which to build. Our gracious Lord will never mock us by exciting false hopes.“
So, let’s remember that the God Who stirs hope will be the One to fulfill that hope (1 Thessalonians 5:24). As we examine the Scriptures daily, let’s test the spirits to check their source (Acts 17:11; 1 John 4:1). And most of all, let’s keep Jesus forefront in our minds, that we “may not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:3).
In the meantime, may you be like “a tree firmly planted by streams of water” …and free from all mistletoe.