THE CHRISTMAS FLOWER
December 21, 2018 | Pastor's Corner
At this time of year leading up to Christmas, many stories are told about the traditions surrounding Christmas. We re-tell the story of the Birth of Christ in the manger along with all the participants of the first Christmas. As people gather to celebrate the Christmas season they re-tell the stories of their own traditions as well.
In some reading, I came across the story of the poinsettia. Our churches and homes will be decorated with this flower of Christmas for the next couple of weeks. The poinsettia was an unlikely choice to be the “Christmas flower” because it is found only in central America and only blooms for a few weeks in winter.
The ancient Aztecs extracted a purplish dye from the plant for textiles and used its milky white sap as a medicine to treat fevers. The poinsettia would have remained obscure if it hadn’t been for Joel Roberts Poinsett, who served as the first U.S. Ambassador to Mexico in 1825. A physician and botanist, Poinsett sent some of the beautiful red plants to his home in South Carolina and began growing them and giving them to friends and fellow botanists.
The Mexicans have a legend about the plant. According to one, a little girl was devastated because she was too poor to bring any gift to her church’s Nativity scene on Christmas Eve. An angel appeared to the little girl and told her to go and pick a weed from the roadside, bring it to the altar, and wait. The child did as the angel directed and when she placed the weed before the Christ Child it had been transformed into a tall beautiful plant bearing a whirl of brilliant scarlet flowers on the top.
From the ancient Aztec culture, from a small, poor region of Mexico, comes one of the most beautiful symbols of Christmas. Its medicinal properties mirror the healing wonders of Jesus; its deep red color is a sign of his death on the cross; its blooming in the middle of winter is a sign of the love of God dawning in our world; its legend exalts God’s Spirit of generosity and compassion.