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Biblical plants can cheer up even the Grinch

By Staff
Jerry A. Chenault, Urban Regional Extension Agent-New &Nontraditional Programs
I cringed as I heard the words coming from his mouth. "I can't stand this time of year… I'll be glad when it's over!" "It's all been made too commercialized." I had heard it all before, and didn't cherish hearing it again; so I do know that some people feel that way about Christmas. "Bah humbug", they may as well say. But is there reason to be a Scrooge in December? Can we see any good in this darkest month of the year? I still think so. Here's why.
I guess I may as well admit that I have never had any project on any job affect me like this "faith-based garden" project has affected me over the past year. Even though there is still so much to learn, yet I have learned so much already that affects the way I see the world now. And even though I have always loved holidays, I see things now that I likely didn't see before. I now see holidays, Christmas, in particular, in an entirely new light. How can that be when all I have done is study plants from the Bible? Let me give you a few examples, and maybe you'll understand. I sure hope so.
Let's see. Well, for example, when I see all those advertisements for diamonds and gold jewelry for Christmas…I think of the carob pods from the locust bean tree (Ceratonia siliqua) that were used for pigs feed in the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:16). The Greek word for the carob is Keratia, from which was coined the scientific name of Ceratonia. When the Greeks found that its pod seeds were relatively constant in weight they used them as a standard measure – which we know as the carat…200 milligrams. And these gifts of jewelry are given as a reminder of the gifts of the magi.
And just what gifts did the magi present to the infant Jesus? Gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Frankincense and myrrh were basically just expensive perfumes (gummy exudations from scrubby Boswellia and Commiphora trees of Africa and Arabia)…and any shopping trip for good perfumes will remind us today how expensive perfumes still are! What a reminding gift!
When I think of the manger I remember seeing the plant called "Lady's Bedstraw" in a Biblical garden at Vermont. Legend has it that this soft plant was used as a lining in the manger at the nativity.
Even in the kitchen I see reminders as we prepare dishes for our rushed holiday schedule. The mustard for the deviled eggs reminds me of the tiny mustard seed that grows into a plant big enough to hold birds (Mark 4:30-32). The spices remind me of Jesus' condemnation of the scribes and Pharisees as hypocrites for tithing mint, dill and cumin but neglecting justice, mercy and faith (Matthew 23:23). The kitchen is full of reminders of the birthday we are celebrating this season.
There are and always have been lots of other wonderful things about Christmas. Things like shepherds canes (candy canes), Poinsettias, caroling, good Christmas shows, Christmas trees, Christmas lights, cards, reading by candlelight with children, hot chocolate, worship services, and helping those in need.
So why try to make Christmas into something to dread this year? Instead unplug our old Christmas machine and see this wonderful time of year like it was meant to be. Have a very, merry, Christmas!

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