By GEORGE ROBERTSON, M.D.
In the Bible times before the birth of Jesus, a maiden named Elizabeth was walking along a little stream. She was sad because she had no children and she was getting too old for one. She prayed for a child almost against hope and as she prayed an angel named Gabriel appeared to her to her that she would conceive and have a son whose name should be John, the one who would prepare the way for the Lord.
The light of the angel shown on all the plants along the stream and as it did one small flowering shoot with bright red petals and emerald green leaves caught Gabriel’s attention so he turned to it and said, “You are the most beautiful of all the flowers. Do you have a special wish?”
The little blooming shoot said with much gusto, since it had been listening to the conversation with the maiden, that it wanted to herald the birth of the promised son by displaying its beautiful red bloom, to be the first of the plant kingdom to welcome him to earth.
As soon as it happened Elizabeth noticed the bloom that seemed to stand out above the others and decided to pick it to take it back home to remind her of the blessed promised event. She put it in a glass of water with some plant food and it began to grow roots.
Meanwhile, Zachariah was at the temple administering the sacrifices for the people and the angel visited him. Since he didn’t believe the good news, the angel caused him not to be able to speak and he had to stay home and rest. Elizabeth put the red flower in the window where it reflected the sun’s rays and cheered the aged priest as he recovered from his stroke.
Mary, also pregnant at the time, came to visit Elizabeth and stayed with her three months to help her care for Zachariah and prepare for the birth of John. As she got ready to go back to Nazareth and Elizabeth found out that she too was to have a child, she gave Mary the flower as a gift. It was now rooted in a pot and still had its radiant red bloom.
As soon as Mary got home, Joseph told her that they would have to go to Bethlehem to pay taxes and they left the flower on the back of the donkey as they journeyed in the cold Holy Land winter.
The day came when she should be delivered and since there was no room in the Inn, Joseph took her to the stable where she set the plant at the head of the manger to keep the animals from trampling it.
The cold ride on the donkey had been too much for the poor little flower and it had started shedding its petals. It tried hard to keep up appearances but just before midnight the last of its petals fell off. How embarrassed the plant was as the baby Jesus came into the world. The plant was appalled that it did not look good at that most important moment.
But as the angels sang, Gabriel noticed the flower and sent the heavenly light to touch its beautiful green leaves. They turned bright red and the flower we use today to celebrate Christmas is the poinsettia. So if you look at a poinsettia today you will see that it doesn’t have a bloom but instead has red leaves in circles around its stem, the flower selected by the angel to herald Christ’s birth.
Editor’s Note: Robertson is a physician with Family Medical Associates, PC, in Lebanon.