Parable of the Poinsettia

    I rinsed the dishes and loaded the dishwasher as Barb gave me the formula I needed. 12 to 15 hours of complete darkness every day for three months. There can't be any light during that time not even for a moment - or it won't bloom.
    It had been almost a year since my poinsettia was given to me. Since last Christmas it had dropped its red bracts and sprouted lots of healthy green leaves. I anticipated a beautiful plant to use for this year's decorating, but NOW it seemed improbable that I could produce conditions severe enough for it to bloom. The sunshine and water I had given it were no favor.
    I could imagine nurseries all over the country with important sealed rooms, and "Do Not Enter" signs on the locked doors for most of the day. Inside, thousands of green plants hovered in the darkness. During those required hours of darkness, no one would be allowed to, enter. Even a flashlight or a lighted "Exit" sign over the door would spoil the beauty being prepared.
   Pondering this brave little plant, I saw a parallel to the dark times in my life the emotional pain of a miscarriage, financial strain, the death of my young husband, the loneliness of being a single parent. Those were times when I longed for a glimmer of light. The darkness seemed absolute I and terminal. God seemed far away. But instead, God was giving me fastidious care. He was the professional - a master gardener who knew there was only one way to produce brilliant blooms in my life. I And predictably, those times of hardship are now precious to me because of what they produced-a deep appreciation for my many blessings, a more mature faith, and a greater trust in God. He hadn't forgotten me after all! Happiness could not have taught me so well.
    I think Joseph and Mary must have observed the same formula at work. At times they must have longed for a glimmer of light in the darkness they were experiencing: Joseph pondering divorce from his beloved Mary because of her apparent unfaithfulness to him. . . arriving in Bethlehem to find no place to stay. To think their baby would be born in a stable and slumber in a feeding trough! There were more dark days ahead - Simeon's warning that a sword would pierce their souls because of this child, and a night flight to Egypt to escape Herod's search and destroy mission for the newborn King. And always there was the shadow of the Cross.
    Yet out of the darkness came angels rejoicing. "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will toward men" (Luke 2:14). God's wonderful salvation was blooming in a dusky cave. Perhaps it is no coincidence that the dark days of autumn produce the poinsettia's colorful display just in time for the holidays. Maybe God put it there to remind us that faith grows in hard times. Out of the darkness, expect rejoicing.

 Donna MacLean is a free-lance writer in Federal Way, Washington.