The Legend of the Poinsettia

Roberts Poinsett was the first US Ambassador to Mexico appointed by President Andrew Jackson in the 1820's. During his stay in Mexico, he wandered into the countryside looking for a new plant species. In 1828 he discovered a beautiful shrub with large red flowers growing next to a road. He took cuttings and brought them to his greenhouse in South Carolina. You can guess that it was Joel Roberts Poinsett who brought the poinsettia to North America, creating a billion dollar industry. Later, the botanical name, Euphorbia Pulcherrima, was given to the poinsettia by the German botanist, Wilenow. The plant grew through a crack in his greenhouse. Dazzled by it's color, he gave it the botanical name, Euphorbia Pulcherrima meaning "very beautiful." And it is in late October when the greenhouse poinsettia changes the color of it's top leaves while the sunshine diminishes to 8 hour days.

The legend story of the poinsettia is told of Pepita, a poor Mexican girl who had no gift to present the Christ Child at Christmas Eve Services. Pepita walked slowly to the chapel with her cousin, Pedro, her heart filled with sadness rather than joy.

"I am sure, Pepita, that even the most humble gift, if given in love, will be acceptable in His eyes," said Pedro consolingly.

Not knowing what else to do, Pepita knelt by the roadside and gathered a handful of common weeds, fashioning them into a small bouquet. Looking at the scraggly bunch of weeds, she felt more saddened and embarrassed than ever by the humbleness of her offering. She fought back a tear as she entered the small village chapel.

As she approached the alter, she remembered Pedro's kind words: "Even the most humble gift, if given in love, will be acceptable in His eyes." She felt her spirit lift as she knelt to lay the bouquet at the foot of the nativity scene.

Suddenly, the bouquet of weeds burst into blooms of brilliant red, and all who saw them were certain that they had witnessed a Christmas miracle. From that day on, the bright red flowers were known as the Flores de Noche Buena, or Flowers of the Holy Night, for they bloomed each year during the Christmas season. Today, the common name for this plant is the poinsettia!

Pepita, our poor Mexican friend, felt very humble as she gave her scraggly bouquet of weeds to the Christ Child. Yet, she gave it in love. That very beautiful gift, Euphorbia Pulcherrima, became a poinsettia. In the same way, the gift of our lives to the Christ Child this Christmas can become a meaningful and beautiful display of flowers; God uses our new lives in Him as we begin to serve our Savior and Lord. Just as a flower can grow through some crack in a greenhouse, we can be transformed into an amazing color of light in the darkness if we accept Him (Romans 12:2).



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