"Poin"ting to Jesus

Back to November until I get caught up...

The Friday that Chris and I left St. Louis after the conference, I once again had the opportunity to lead chapel for the kids at my former gradeschool, St. Paul's Lutheran in Des Peres, MO...Chris helped. They have been incredibly supportive of my whole journey as a volunteer missionary. I also led chapel in January 2009 before I came down here, and the kids collected school supplies for the mission in lieu of traditional chapel offerings; this time around it was toys. Because we flew Southwest and got 2 free checked bags each, Chris and I were each able to take an extra suitcase of them back for Elvira to start getting ready for the Christmas distribution, which will take place on Saturday, December 19, 2009. Here are some pictures of the loot:

I wanted our message to tie in the fact that they collected toys, Christmas, and Mexico, which I think I succeeded in doing. I hope it made sense...I'll let you decide but it did in my head. I started off by reading the Mexican "Legend of the Poinsettia:

Maria and Pablo lived in a tiny village in Mexico. Because Christmastime at their house did not include many gifts, Maria and Pablo looked forward to the Christmas festivities at the village church with great joy and anticipation.

'The Legend of the Poinsettia' is an inspirational Christmas story that takes place in Mexico.
©2006 Publications International, Ltd.

To honor the birth of Christ, the church displayed a beautiful manger that drew crowds of admirers. Villagers walked miles to admire the manger, bringing lovely, expensive gifts for the Baby Jesus. As Maria and Pablo watched the villagers place their gifts in the soft hay around the manger, they felt sad. They had no money to buy gifts for their family and no money to buy a gift for the Baby Jesus.

One Christmas Eve, Maria and Pablo walked to the church for that evening's services, wishing desperately that they had a gift to bring. Just then, a soft glowing light shone through the darkness, and the shadowy outline of an angel appeared above them.

Maria and Pablo were afraid, but the angel comforted them, instructing them to pick some of the short green weeds that were growing by the road. They should bring the plants to the church, the angel explained, and place them near the manger as their gift to the Baby Jesus. Then just as quickly as she had appeared, the angel was gone, leaving Maria and Pablo on the road looking up into the dark sky. Confused but excited, the children filled their arms with large bunches of the green weeds and hurried to the church.

When the children entered the church, many of the villagers turned to stare. As Maria and Pablo began placing the weeds around the manger, some of the villagers laughed at them. "Why are those children putting weeds by the manger?" they asked each other. Maria and Pablo began to feel embarrassed and ashamed of their gift to the Baby Jesus, but they stood bravely near the manger, placing the plants on the soft hay, as the angel had instructed.

Suddenly, the dull green leaves on the tops of the plants began to turn a beautiful shade of red, surrounding the Baby with beautiful blooms. The laughing villagers became silent as they watched the green plants transform into the lovely star-shaped crimson flowers we call poinsettias. As they watched the weeds bloom before their eyes, Maria and Pablo knew they had no reason to be ashamed anymore. They had given the Baby Jesus the only gift they could--and it was the most beautiful gift of all.

Today, poinsettias are a traditional symbol of Christmas, thanks to young Maria and Pablo and their special gifts to the Baby Jesus.

The rest of our talk centered around poinsettias, which as you can see are Christmas-ey AND Mexican, hence why I thought of using them. I showed a Powerpoint that had a bunch of poinsettia pictures and facts--they come in various colors, the actual flower is the yellow part and the red things are leaves, they were brought to the U.S. by ambassador to Mexico Joel Poinsett, their scientific name is Euphorbia pulcherrima, they were used by the Aztecs a
s a dye and a medicine--but most importantly that they are regarded by Mexicans as a symbol of the star of Bethlehem, pointing the Magi to the baby Jesus. The text that was read in both English and Spanish, was therefore Matthew 2:1-12:
"After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him."

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. "In Bethlehem in Judea," they replied, "for this is what the prophet has written:

" 'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.'"

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him."

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route."

The point that I wanted to drive home--the meat of the message--was that, just as the star of Bethlehem (represented by the poinsettia) pointed the Magi to Jesus, the kids and their toy donations are also pointing people to Jesus--the kids in El Paso and Juarez who will now receive at least one Christmas gift. I told everyone in attendance that I wanted them to think about that every time they saw a poinsettia this Christmas, which I'm sure will be a bazillion times. The end of my Powerpoint was a bunch of pictures of past Christmas distributions because everybody likes to look at pictures!

I hope I did that justice in my explanation, obviously it was better in person. I also want to say I think it's cool that the beginning of the word "poinsettia" is the same as the beginning of the word "point" (hence the title), but I didn't think most of the kids would get the play on words so I left it out of the Powerpoint ;)

Until next time, blessings!