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The Legend of the Poinsettia comes from the people of Mexico and dates back to the 17th century when monks began using these beautiful red flowers in their Christmas processions.
It wasn't until 1828 they were brought to the United States by Joel Roberts Poinsett and became known as poinsettias.
Photo by Ricardo CL @ Pexels
It was Christmas Eve in Mexico when many traveled to the nearest chapel to worship and lay their gifts before the Christ Child in the Nativity.
Pepita and her cousin Pedro joined their families as they traveled down the dirty road. Pepita held her head low with such a sad look on her face for she was too poor to buy a gift.
Pedro tried to encourage her saying that even the smallest gift given in love would be happily accepted by Christ.
Pepita's eyes glanced about and landed on a field of flowering weeds along the roadside. She knelt and gathered several making them into a simple bouquet.
As she looked at the flowers, her disappointment returned for they were in no way a worthy gift for anyone, much less the Son of God. A small tear fell from her cheek and landed on the dusty path leaving a dark spot behind.
As they neared the Nativity, Pepita bowed her head low and drawing courage from Pedro's words - "even the smallest gift given with love will be accepted," she stepped inside the little chapel and approached the Nativity scene.
As she knelt there, it is said a miracle took place! The scraggly petals of those weeds changed into beautiful scarlet red blooms. Pepita's face also bloomed with a smile sensing the love her Savior had for her - a poor little girl with nothing to give but herself and her love.
From this time on the poinsettias became known as the Flores de Noche Buena - "Flowers of the Holy Night."
After reading many traditional versions, I took the liberty of rewording this beautiful legend of the poinsettia to further emphasize the beauty of Pepita's heart as her truest gift.
Jesus doesn't ask us for more than we can give. In fact, all He wants is our love and trust. The Bible says in Mark 10:13-16 -
"People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them."
We are to come to God as a little child trusting and dependent with nothing to offer but ourselves...our hearts.
Bring a poinsettia plant or picture for students to see. Read aloud the Legend of the Poinsettia.
Many times we think what we have to offer God isn't enough, and yet as we see in the Legend of the Poinsettia, Pepita offered exactly what pleased Him - herself and her love.
God created so many things in nature that point us to Him. Even this plant which originated in Mexico can share the truths found in the Christmas story and beyond.
Four hundreds of years before the poinsettia became associated with Christmas, its leaves were used for healing fevers. Jesus left heaven and was born as a baby to live a perfect life and die on the cross to be raised from the dead all for our healing!
"And hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
If you look at the shape of the bloom with the golden center, what does it look like to you? It kind of looks like a star reminding us of the Star of Bethlehem the wise men followed to find Jesus.
When we think of stars, we also think of light. The Bible calls Jesus the Morning Star and the Light of the World. He shines in the darkness so we might see and know God. Let's seek Him like the wise men did!
"Because of that experience, we have even greater confidence in the message proclaimed by the prophets. You must pay close attention to what they wrote, for their words are like a lamp shining in a dark place—until the Day dawns, and Christ the Morning Star shines in your hearts."
1 Peter 1:19
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
And of course the red blooms remind us of Jesus' blood He shed on the cross to pay the price for our sin.
"But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin."
1 John 1:7
"In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace."
"And almost all things are cleansed with blood, according to the Law, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.
Did you know what other color poinsettia petals can be? White! White reminds us of the purity of Jesus and how He lived a perfect and sinless life.
"For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ."
2 Corinthians 5:21
"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin."
What do you think of when you see the color green? Plants or trees? Me too! I think of things that grow and are alive! Jesus called Himself the True Vine because it is only through Him we can have real life!
If I pick a leaf off the stem, what will happen? It will die; without being attached to the stem or vine of the plant, it cannot live.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."
"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came so that they would have life, and have it abundantly."
So the next time you see a poinsettia, let it remind you of Jesus. He is God's greatest gift to us, and the Legend of the Poinsettia can also remind us of the perfect gift we have to give back to Him in gratitude - ourselves and our hearts!
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