Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Sunday, December 23, 2018
Prayer, and Christmas Legend
I enjoy hearing about the various legends and stories about Christmas that have been passed down from generation to generation. Some start out in one area or region, and then after years go by, they spread around the world.
The online Advent devotional calendar I’ve been reading these past weeks comes from Epiphany United Church of Christ in Chicago. I appreciate this entry, from Ginny, an older member of the congregation. She also loves legends and stories. She relates the legend of the poinsettia.
“It once was the custom in Mexico for the villagers to leave a gift for the Baby Jesus in their church on Christmas Eve. In one small village, a little boy who had no gift to bring prayed to God for a way to show his love for the infant king. God, full of mercy, looked down on the boy and answered his earnest prayer by causing a flower to bloom where he knelt — a flower so brilliant and fair. The miraculous flower was formed like a star with leaves that were red and so bright, and the boy’s precious gift has come to be known as the “flower of the holy night.“ (flor de la noche buena)” 
This was one legend I missed. I had known all my life that poinsettias were considered Christmas flowers, but had never known the story behind it. Now, I do. Lovely story for a lovely flower.
However, I have always been rather uncomfortable about giving gifts to the Baby Jesus. It’s not that He doesn’t deserve rich, sumptuous gifts—certainly He does! Certainly, He deserves all of our gratitude, obedience and love. Except, Jesus rules over the entire universe. What could we possibly give Jesus that He doesn’t have already?
This poinsettia legend reminds me a bit of the poem written by Christina Rosetti, published in the January 1872 edition of Scribner’s Magazine. Some might know it better as the lyrics for the Christmas hymn “In the Bleak Midwinter.” I memorized the last verse of this hymn almost fifty years ago, and it has been repeating itself in my head for the last week or two.
“What can I give Him, Poor as I am? —
If I were a Shepherd I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man I would do my part, —
Yet what I can I give Him, — Give my heart.”
I believe Miss Rosetti had it right: Jesus does not want rich gifts, or sumptuous gifts. Jesus wants me to give Him the best gift of all. “Give my heart.”
Dear Lord Jesus, as I await Your birthday celebration, almost here (!!), help me to give You my heart. Help me to give You my gratitude for salvation, obedience to Your commands and words, and love for Your indescribable gift. Thank You for Your love for me—for us. We bow before You in honor, worship and praise. And, say thank You. Thank You.
Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.
 (This devotional by “Ginny” Maddox appeared in the Sunday, Dec. 23rd edition of the online Advent calendar featured by Epiphany UCC Church, Chicago, Illinois.)