Today I share a reflection from my pastor that he sent out last week to our church body and extended church family. I was blessed, and I believe you will be too! Thanks, Pastor Steven!
I have a plant in my office called the "Christmas Cactus". It is not like the cactus you might think of in the Wyoming deserts but more of a tropical cactus found in South and Central America. They are most often found in the forks of tree limbs where they grow in decayed leaves and other natural debris that accumulates there. What is most amazing about this plant in my office is that it blooms once a year (although some will bloom more often). They bloom at this time of year, the Christmas season and hence get the name, "Christmas Cactus." The flowers on my plant are pink and white but also come in red and peach as well. It is a beautiful plant; (and I thank Donna Bolster for taking care of it each week because if she didn't it would be a dead plant!)
The Christmas Cactus is a constant reminder to me of the beauty of the birth of Jesus. Just as the cactus is found in the forks of tree limbs, among leaves and debris, Jesus was born in what is described as a manger, certainly a place of lowliness and obscurity. Like the cactus, the beauty of this life is not fully realized or known while it grows largely ignored by the world. But once discovered, the splendor of the life is majestic and mystifying. The fact that it blooms once a year and begins to bloom at just around the time of the beginning of the Advent Season symbolizes much about the birth of Christ. In the midst of the cold and darkness of winter, while everything around is dead and dying, there is this life blossoming forth giving a breath of light and beauty. The flowers burst forth and if you take the time to slow down, look at it, admire it, appreciate it, you are truly amazed. Just like the Advent Season; we can let it bypass us and rush us right up to Christmas day or we can take time every day to slow down, admire and appreciate the birth of Christ and be amazed by the fact that God became a man for us. The Christmas Cactus helps me to do that. It is a powerful symbol and reminder to me that Christ has come and reconciled us to the Father, bringing life out of death, shining light in the midst of darkness. It reminds me of an old hymn, Crown Him with Many Crowns, that we sang back in the old days but is beautiful and powerful (even though it's not a Christmas song!). The last verse says:
"Crown Him the Lord of heaven!
One with the Father known
One with the Spirit through Him given,
from yonder glorious throne
To Thee be endless praise,
For Thou for us hast died
Be Thou, O Lord, through endless days,
Adored and magnified!"
The more familiar Christmas Carol, O Come, All Ye Faithful, implores us to: "Come, let us adore Him, Christ The Lord!"
The Advent/Christmas season is often a battle of wills, of time and of activity. We are forced to make choices on where we will go, what we will buy and whom we will spend our time with. If we are not careful, we can become so busy (and busy with good things, I might add), that we miss the birth of Christ! Perhaps we need a daily reminder to stop and be amazed at the birth of Jesus. We need time, every day, to "come and adore Him." This year, a Christmas Cactus is helping me to do that. You may want to buy one for yourself or for someone else and tell them the powerful symbolism behind it. Something so simple can have such profound impact. They say that the Christmas Cactus can last for hundreds of years. (I can only hope that Donna will be around to keep on watering my plant!) In other words, this story, this story of the Christ event, can be taught and passed on for generations to come. I think that's a story we need to tell, proclaim and pass on. What do you think?