The poinsettia is the world’s renown Christmas flower and many homes will be decorated with this beautiful plant this Christmas.   Did you know that the poinsettia was an unlikely choice to become the Christmas flower?   It is found only in Central America and blooms just a few weeks in winter.  The ancient Aztecs extracted a purplish dye from the plant for textiles and used its sap to treat fevers.  The poinsettia would have remained a regional oddity were it not for Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first US Ambassador to Mexico in 1825.  A physician and botanist, he sent some of the beautiful plants to his home in South Carolina and began growing them and giving them to friends.

There is a Mexican legend about the plant, in which a little girl was devastated because she was too poor to take any gifts to her church’s nativity scene.  An angel appeared to the despondent girl and told her to pick a weed, take it to the altar and wait.  The child did as the angel directed.  When she placed the weed before the Christ Child, it had been transformed into a tall beautiful plant bearing brilliant scarlet flowers on the top – the poinsettia.

The poinsettia’s medicinal properties reflect the healing Jesus, its deep red color reflects the cross he was born to embrace; its blooming in the middle of winter mirrors the love of God dawning in our sin and alienation, its legend exalts God’s Spirit of generosity and compassion.

..taken from Daily reflections for advent & Christmas – waiting in joyful hope 2012-2013.