This is crazy. Suddenly I'm all excited about a plant.
I can't remember ever taking care of a plant in my life. That was always my wife's department. But this Christmas I actually ordered a special plant, and it's getting my special care.
Because of what it represents to me about Christmas. And about the "long winter" that began the day the love of my life was suddenly gone.
I never heard of a Christmas Amaryllis plant until I got some new Christmas music. There's this song that likens Jesus' coming to the plant that's now blooming by my Christmas tree.
The Christmas Amaryllis blooms at the time when most living things are dormant or dead. In the cold and dark of winter. And, man, does it bloom! With deep red flowers that look like trumpets.
Cold and dark pretty well describes the world the Son of God came to. Cold because of shattered families, betrayed love, deep loneliness, the disease of "me." And dark. Because of rampant depression, metastasized evil, quiet desperation.
To use Jesus' word - "lost."
But hope was born in that manger in Bethlehem. In a world where every religion is about how we can climb to the God atop the mountain, God came down to us. Way down. The hands that created billions of galaxies now a baby's hands, too helpless to touch His mother's face. Then later, those hands nailed to a cross.
Because that's what it took to pay for the cancer that makes it so cold and dark. Human sin. "Jesus" means "God rescues." When the angel announced that name, he said it was "because He will save His people from their sins" (Matthew 1:18). And "Jesus gave His life for our sins...in order to rescue us" (Galatians 1:4).
Jesus was the Life that bloomed at Christmas. Ultimately bringing forgiveness and unloseable love, healing and heaven to countless millions. Including me.
But my winter-defying Amaryllis is also a picture of my last 18 months. Without the love and laugh and wisdom of my baby. My incomparable Karen. When I realized she was gone, I almost immediately thought, "Life without her is unimaginable."
Suddenly it was winter. With a hole left in my heart by her not being here. A muted loneliness that isn't always loud, but is always there. Missing the voice of God that so often came through her to me. Instinctively turning to tell her things, realizing she's not there to tell.
It must have been God who led me to write life-changing words in the grief journal I started shortly after she went to heaven. Asking Him to help me "not waste this grief." If it was going to hurt this much, I wanted Jesus to use it to somehow make me more useful to Him. And to others.
That's when spring began to blossom in my winter. My heart is more tender than it's ever been - feeling my feelings as never before. Feeling - and reaching out to - the pain of others in a new way. Becoming more transparent than I've ever been. Experiencing Jesus in deep corners of my heart that grief opened. Actually living with a strange but buoyant joy that comes from a new sense that He's sweetly coaching me through my day.
While there is still "weeping for a night," Jesus really does bring "joy in the morning" (Psalm 30:5).
Life in my winter. Blooming even in this extreme "missing her" time at Christmas. Living Jesus' promise that "whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness" (John 8:12).
This is the reality of belonging to Jesus. The Light in the darkest night.