I am not an adventurous person. Like Bilbo Baggins, I appreciate a solitary fireside and cup of tea, and I avoid what is unfamiliar. When it comes to teaching little children however, I morph into a Ranger from the North. A topic presents itself; my eyes glaze over; and I begin to scan the horizon of youtube videos for exciting science experiments. My stated goal is to teach them this or that. My secret goal is to make creation exploration a great adventure. So when the time came to discuss plants with my first and second graders, I wanted them to observe the leaves and feel the soil. I wanted them to get their hands dirty.
Plant day arrived, and I loaded my red wagon with pots and potting soil, immense plants and rooting hormone. We were going to do something different this trimester—no more grass head chia pets —we were going to take cuttings and propagate them. In a burst of optimism, I bought a beautiful poinsettia with bright red leaves to show the kids the plant’s potential. I also brought in last year’s poinsettia to take the cuttings from—a bit scraggly— but still green and growing. I thought using a traditional Christmas plant for the experiment was brilliant until I remembered, too late, that it was also slightly toxic. Oops. . .
Placing the green plant next to the red plant on the table, I explained that the “flowers” were really leaves that had turned red because of light deprivation. “Today,” I declared, “we’re going to pot our own Christmas plants and next year, if you’re careful, you can make them turn red too.” They grinned— happy that they were going to take something home. But once I pulled the dirt out of the wagon, you’d have thought Santa had arrived. I could hardly calm them down long enough to explain how to take a cutting and plant it. It’s certain that they never heard my few sentences about caring for their poor poinsettias, and the MESS!!! I am now convinced that dirt is a euphoria-inducing drug for kids.
After much soap and water, sweeping and swiping, the children and the room were cleaned and detoxified. The kids left, and the room was empty except for me and a box of plant babies, each in a sticker-decorated pot; each covered with a zip-lock bag; each looking fragile but hopeful. I doubted that any would make it a week.
Jesus’ beginnings weren’t terribly promising. Seven hundred years before His birth, Isaiah predicted that He would be like a “tender shoot and like a root out of parched ground” (Is 53:2), a fragile plant arising from an unnourishing soil. Yet He lived and fluorished and died to give us a chance at life. We may not see Him again for many days, but He is coming, and He will arrive triumphant—no longer despised, forsaken or rejected. The poinsettia He created reminds me that after this interval of darkness is over, His glory will be revealed.