Many people enjoy decorating their homes or offices with poinsettias during the holiday season. Poinsettias, or flores de Nochebuena, are associated with Christmas on the basis of a Mexican story about a girl who wanted to bring a gift to Jesus at Christmas Eve services but lacked the means. On the way to church, she grabbed some weeds from the roadside to bring to Jesus. However, when she entered the church to make her offering, they blossomed into poinsettia flowers. This tale reinforces a common Biblical theme of God’s tender and protective care for those who are poor and the special love that God has for people whom the world sometimes forgets. The story also reminds us that no matter who we are, God loves and appreciates our offerings, no matter how “poor” those gifts may be.
In Advent, I try to pray regularly. For me, this time of year coincides with university-wide final exams and a week of intensive grading afterwards. Sometimes my prayer time is full of a beautiful kind of silence in which God is present. Other times my mind is so preoccupied with what I need to get done that day that it would be fair to say that my prayer is full of weeds rather than flowers. I may find myself saying a few words to the Lord and then being pulled off into distractions stemming from the tasks of the day ahead, or perhaps I simply feel restless. How I’d like to get rid of the weeds of distraction! Where are the flowers of consoling and tender silence?
The story of the poinsettia, however, reminds us that God appreciates our gifts, however “weedy.” Perhaps God can even transform those gifts into “flowers.” Simply by showing up to prayer, no matter how well the experience of prayer goes on our end, we are showing up to relationship with God. Even offering my distractions to God is something that I can let God embrace. Those few moments of quiet may well be just the moments that God needs to enter into my heart so that I am a little more patient or compassionate with my equally busy students or family.
Relationship is also about presence. Like the girl who offered what she had to God, we also can offer whomever we are in any particular moment to the Lord. Our prayer is enough, and we are enough, for it is God who takes our prayers and transforms them in ways hidden even to us.
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