Message Raughton Head Parish Magazine Rose Castle
It’s Christmas time once more, and the time to get out the yearly decorations.
Holly wreaths find their way onto our doors to welcome the visitor, mistletoe appears mysteriously hanging above our heads in unexpected places as an excuse to catch a kiss from those we admire, poinsettias adorn the table together with Christmas roses. What better way to celebrate the festival than by bringing a bit of nature into our homes.
The bright-red holly berry represents for us the blood that Jesus spilt on the cross, and its spiky leaves remind us of the crown of thorns that he bore as he won for us a way back to
God. As a green plant in the winter, mistletoe is said to symbolize Christ’s re-birth. Poinsettias probably came to be used in Christmas decorations as they bloom in the winter and are the perfect Christmas colours as well as being star-shaped. And the purity of Christ is shown in the white flowers of the Christmas rose.
Several myths surround the use of these plants at Christmas time. There is a medieval legend that the mistletoe was once a tree from which Jesus’ cross was fashioned. Because of its contribution to the crucifixion, God punished it be making it into a parasitic plant that could never again grow on its own. Both the poinsettia and the Christmas rose appear in stories where someone was unable to provide a gift for Jesus, but their tears were turned by angels into something worth giving.

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Yet, strangely, all these plants are poisonous! Christmas roses have provided the toxins used to poison arrows, and they can cause cardiovascular disorders, convulsions and respiratory failure. Mistletoe has also been known to cause unpleasant symptoms and also death through drinking tea that was believed to be a therapeutic herbal drink. Ingesting the poinsettia simply leads to nausea and vomiting, and most cases of holly poisoning are equally mild.
It seems strange that these poisonous plants are used to celebrate the greatest move of God to combat the poison that humankind brought into God’s perfect world. But then I suppose that God’s pure act of love was surrounded by more human poison, as first Herod tried to kill Jesus as a baby, and then the religious authorities of the day sought to eliminate him, eventually succeeding (or so they thought) at the cross. God’s love, though, cannot be thwarted! God’s love is more powerful than anything. It can change the way we look at things in a new way and see the beauty in these plants whilst avoiding their poison. 
May God’s love fill us this Christmas and enable us to see those around us as he does – in all their beauty.
Steve Carter – 01228 710215