Song of Solomon 2:1-5
I’m a rose of the Sharon plain, a lily of the valleys. 2 Like a lily among thornbushes, so is my dearest among the young women. 3 Like an apple tree among the wild trees, so is my lover among the young men. In his shade I take pleasure in sitting, and his fruit is sweet to my taste. 4 He has brought me to the house of wine; his banner raised over me is love. 5 Sustain me with raisin cakes, strengthen me with apples, for I’m weak with love!
Often flowers are perceived as the embodiment of beauty, both positively and negatively. This is as true around Christmas as any other time of the year. Two flowers particularly found their way into Christmas celebrations, the winter rose and the poinsettia. The rose has been a tradition of Christmas for centuries; legend tells that the first of these roses grew from the tears of a girl with no present for the newborn Christ child. The white flower of the shrub reminds us that even in the most forbidding times God can cause beauty to shine out. Most would say that winter is far too harsh for the delicate beauty of a flower, but, if God can make the flower bloom in the cold, can God not also cause love and joy to grow in even the most desperate circumstances of life. The great German carol Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming reminds us that Jesus is the ultimate example of this; in the midst of the dark winter of humanity, Jesus came like a winter rose bringing beauty into the cold misery. Combined with the physical beauty is the sweet scent put off by the flower, which reminds us that the beauty of Christ invades our every sense enabling us to partake in the joy of God.
The poinsettia picks up on many of the same themes. Once considered nothing more than a roadside weed in Mexico, its Christmas bloom has made it a popular symbol of the eternal beauty of God’s work. The poinsettia’s bloom has the added benefit of being in the shape of a star. The star shape helps remind us of the journey of the magi to worship their Christ. In finding the Christ, the magi found beauty. Seeing the Christmas flower, we are reminded, “O Flower, whose fragrance tender with sweetness fills the air, dispel in glorious splendor the darkness everywhere.”
Eternal God, when I reflect on the beauty of the flowers of the season I am thankful that in the coldest night you provide magnificent beauty; I thank you most of all for the most beautiful of flowers, your Son and it is through the same that I pray. Amen