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All The Flowers Look Up

Luke 2:1-14

The Rev. Jon Roberts

24 December

2011

Grace Episcopal Church

Monroe, LA

1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. 2 This was the first enrollment, when Quirin′i-us was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be enrolled, each to his own city. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. 7 And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. 8 And in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; 11 for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!”

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Nativity scene from the Vyšší Brod altarpiece, ca. 1350
Prague, The Czech Republic

The Christ-child lay on Mary’s lap,
His hair was like a light.
O weary, weary were the world,
But here is all aright.

The Christ-child lay on Mary’s breast
His hair was like a star.
O stern and cunning are the kings,
But here the true hearts are.

The Christ-child lay on Mary’s heart,
His hair was like a fire.
O weary, weary in the world,
But here the world’s desire.

The Christ-child stood on Mary’s knee,
His hair was like a crown,
And all the flowers looked up at Him,
And all the stars looked down.[1]

Some of the most beautiful things to gaze upon are the flowers that adorn our church. Poinsettias line around the altar. Greens hang about with boughs of holly. Let us go down in haste, for tonight is the night, where God takes the census of the souls of the faithful, who come and bow down to worship the Christ child.

In my earlier years, there was much time learning about the sciences, the art of understanding what makes things move and have their being. One particular class, a most difficult one, because it required some Latin, was Botany; the study of plants. It was intriguing to learn how plants, both flowers and greens receive life giving oxygen and life sustaining water. On the cell surface, tens of thousands of openings existed. They were little portals that opened and closed when the time was needed. The flower would know when to open. The greens knew how to retain water. They knew when to open and let excess evaporate. They knew when it was important to open their portals.

These openings are called stomata. They are most interesting in the linguistic form. The word is not Latin, but instead it is Greek, and it simply means, "mouth." With the mouth opening to the world, things retain life and things are created. From this understanding we can say that the exchange of words through this portal mean something. They are exchanged daily and give us something to ponder. We can use them to praise and glorify, or condemn and vilify. When we open our mouths, what is it that comes out? In the canticle, we hear, “Let your portals be called praise and your walls salvation.”[2]

Mary, the one who received the lily of purity last Sunday, knew that something from above was being sent to a lowly place. She treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. Perhaps she wondered about her child. What would his hair be like? Like a light, like a star, like a fire or like a crown? Like Mary we are called to open our mouths. We are to show forth the praise to a mighty God who sent down love like the rain that fills our souls. We open our lips and with our mouths to magnify our praise for Him.[3]

There is a whole world out there that needs to hear the Word of God as it is found in the love of His Son, Jesus Christ. God will magnify the life of His Church when we tell others about how He so loved the world that He would give his son. On this Eve of the Nativity, we see that love bundled in swaddling clothes lying in a manger, on this solemn and silent night. Let the Christ child lay close to your hearts and when the time comes, sing out to the world. You are like the flowers that look up. Therefore, open your mouths with praise.

[1] G.K. Chesterton, “A Christmas Carol”
[2] The Third Song of Isaiah, Isa 60:13
[3] Luke 2:1-14

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