December 19th: Blooming in the Desert

“Did you know,” my son said with wide-eyes, “that a cactus has flowers? How could a flower grow in the desert?!”

It happens, Beloved.

And I know you know that. You’ve seen the Saguaro, and in these days you’ve certainly seen the Schlumbergera, better known as a “Christmas Cactus.”

I mean, intellectually you know that a cactus blooms in the desert, even if that desert is your own living room where your green thumb is continually challenged…

You know it intellectually, but do you know it spiritually? Do you feel it’s true?

Today the ancient name for the Messiah that the Church cries out is, “O Flower of Jesse!” It doesn’t sound like that radical of a name, right? But take into consideration the fact that the ancient people thought that the house of Jesse was basically a dead end. “A stump,” is how the prophets described it.

Dead.

Dead like a desert wasteland.

And yet the promise was that it was going to happen. That from this dead thing would come a new branch, a flower, “a rose” e’re blooming, if you know the carol.

In some traditions a rose is placed on the altar of a parish church whenever there is a baptism. The symbol here is pretty beautiful, I think. Most would assume it’s a traditional “here’s a flower for a special day” sort of thing, but when you consider that the Messiah was supposed to be the “rose of Jesse,” the symbol goes much deeper: that newborn is an extension of the Divine promise becoming alive again.

In this Advent time, when we’re inching closer to Christmas, we might begin to wonder if all this waiting…no, not just that…if all this spiritual life stuff is worth it, anyway.

I remember one Sunday turning toward the cross during church, thinking, “Why the hell do we do this, anyway?” It was an honest thought, an honest question, and I was the one leading the whole thing!

But sometimes we do it because, well, in the parched moments of our life, in the cold winter landscapes when it feels like nothing is able to grow, in the desert moments of our being when it seems like we’re dried up, we need a reminder that even then and there things can happen.

Are happening.

Even in those places and times, a rose is not only possible, but is dormant and waiting to bloom.

As you mull around in your head and your heart the possibility that something is able to grow in the desert places of your life, throw on Blues Traveler’s “Just Wait.” It’s an unlikely Advent song, my friend.

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