The Legend of the
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
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).