6There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.*
The Advent Season of 1986 was an especially dark and painful time in my life. My wife, and the mother of our young sons had died the previous April after a long battle with cancer. That year the Christmas lights, carols, and memories seemed to only accentuate my loss and loneliness. As Advent and Christmas can be a difficult and dark time for many people, so it was for me that year.
But one evening as I was standing in the checkout line with a few groceries, I saw a colorful little plant for sale. Curious, I picked up the plant and read the words on the pot, “Christmas Cactus.” Having never seen or heard of a Christmas Cactus, I read on and learned that the plant blooms right at Christmas time after having spent many weeks in the dark. There was something about the darkness and the blooming that spoke to me, so I added the Christmas Cactus to my shopping cart. And in the midst of that dark Christmas and every Christmas since, the Christmas Cactus has blossomed hope for me.
I have since learned that what we call the Christmas Cactus is a cacti native to Brazil’s eastern mountains, and became a very popular Christmas gift in Victorian England. Horticulturalists say that for the Christmas Cactus to blossom, its watering needs to be cut back, and it needs to be put into darkness. It needs a long time in darkness before it can blossom.
The Christmas Cactus with its happy neon colors helps me to think differently about the dark times and loss. I have experienced for myself how God follows up our dark times with times of brightness and fruitfulness. In the dark times we can know Jesus as “the true light which enlightens everyone.”
The prophet Isaiah foretold how God would bring forth blessing for us from the times of darkness:
I will give you the treasures of darkness
and riches hidden in secret places,
so that you may know that it is I, the Lord,
the God of Israel, who call you by your name. Isaiah 45:3
Read, Reflect, Respond, and Rest with both of today’s scripture
texts and today’s devotional.
Today’s Moments of Diaphany
- an answer to prayer
- evidence of his love and care
- evidence of his creative power and wisdom
- his help to do his work