In the past two hundred years, a new element has found its place in our Christmas celebration. It is from the Christian practices and symbols in Mexico that we have adopted this tradition. In the very early part of the 19th century, an American who served the United States as an ambassador spent a tour of duty in Mexico. He admired the dramatic beauty of the bright red poinsettia that grew rooftop high and bloomed profusely at Christmas. He was awed when Mexican Christians told him why the bright red poinsettias were a part of their celebration of the birth and life of Christ. In Mexico, the story goes like this: The Bethlehem star shone over the manger where Jesus was born. Its light so bright the earth responded, reflecting that star light, receiving that star light, mirroring that star light with a beautiful flower. Star shaped, radiant shaped, pure white petals, golden star centers. In Mexican lore, it was always the Flower of the Holy Night. It grew on earth as a creation to glorify and commemorate that Holy Night "For the stars shout forth the glory of God." Then came the tragic day when Jesus dies on the cross and the blossoms changed. Pure white petals remembered the sacrifice of the Christ born when the star was over Bethlehem. Flower of the Holy Night, star shaped, radiant shaped, blood red petals, star flowers for the Holy Night. Now, everywhere, on cards and on trees, in churches and in our homes, the poinsettia takes its place; reminding us of a Holy Night, pointing to a Good Friday.
The star stands out in significance as relevant and vital today as when God hung it in space. The Bible tells us that God commissioned a particular star to serve as a travel guide for a group of men from the East who had developed an interest in looking for a child to fulfill a prophecy that in Bethlehem a ruler to shepherd Israel would be born. They found Mary, Joseph, and Jesus in a house where they fell to their knees, worship the child, and gave Him gifts. The star is a symbol of God’s gift of direction to us. It is His travel guide to seekers who will look and follow. The star led the wise men to Jesus, the Light of world. As we light the tree and the star remember that Jesus is the true Light in a world of darkness, He points the way to God.
May we remember to honor Jesus this Christmas. Amen?