Revisiting the colors of Christmas: Gold

I hope your Christmas was wonderful. You may still be visiting family, or still cleaning up Christmas bows and boxes, or dealing with post-Christmas blues, or maybe you’re traveling home today. Wherever today finds you, I hope it’s a golden day for you.

The light this time of year seems especially magical, and I love to take in winter’s golden sunsets, just like yesterday’s:

Today’s post revisits the color gold: golden stars, gold haloes, gifts of gold. I hope you enjoy reading it.

Merry Christmas! I hope you’re enjoying time with your family and friends, as well as taking time to ponder the great gift of Christ’s birth and promise of His return. Continue reading

Christmas gifts

Ah, Christmas. Another one has come and gone. You’ve opened your presents (perhaps already returning one or two). If you hosted Christmas at your home, your refrigerator is probably starting to have some space in it again, though your freezer may still be stuffed.

Some of you may have taken down your Christmas decorations and packed them away until next year, ready to be done with the holidays. Removing decorations at our house often depends on my husband’s schedule, but I love to leave them up until Three Kings Day/Epiphany.

The book of Matthew tells us of one more party after Christ’s birth, one last hurrah, before things got really tough for Jesus and Mary and Joseph (and for their neighbors, too). The story centers on the arrival of the magi.

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship him.” … and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. — Matthew 2:1-2, 9-11

When we think of the magi, we envision kings and crowns and camels and three presents, and that’s often how nativity scenes depict them.

A small percentage of you chose the wisemen as your favorite figures in the nativity, and I, too, love the kings and camels in my own nativity set. (You can see the kings and one of the camels in a post from three years ago here.) Several of my favorite Christmas decorations center on the three kings: Continue reading

Red-letter words for dark days

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. — Matthew 5:4

I’ve been reading through the red-letter words of the Bible this morning and listening to a filibuster in the U.S. senate chambers on gun-reform laws. Less than a year ago, I wrote a similar post for a similar reason: a gunman went into a sanctuary and killed minorities he hated. I am heartsick to be here again with another list of names.

I had planned a very different post today, but it will wait. Life and death interrupt us all in ways we never anticipate, in events that horrify us and cause us to pause. Some days, “business as usual” just feels wrong.

Today, I share the same picture as last year and a different, too-long list.


Last year’s nine candles. Today, 49 more names.

Continue reading

Easter gardens

Easter has long been one of my favorite holidays. The weekend leading to Easter was always a whirlwind of fun when I was growing up. My aunt, uncle and cousins drove down from Maryland, and we spent Saturday afternoon painting Easter eggs. I can still smell the boiled eggs and feel my burning fingertips as I raced to dapple on the egg dye before the egg cooled too much to hold the paint.

Sunday promised homemade bread for breakfast; a spectacular, joyful service; and a race home, where the aroma of lamb and herbs roasting in the oven greeted us before we even got inside. Dad hid Easter eggs, and after the egg hunt, my mom and aunt hid Easter baskets.

Eggs and garden flowers are inextricably linked in my memory, especially the pink azaleas that often bloomed right in time to conceal an equally pink egg. I was a terrible egg and basket hunter, while my brother was always the champion, but I always knew to check the pink azaleas for the pink egg. Somehow, Easter doesn’t feel quite the same without a hunt of some sort.

The joys of Easter Sunday always wiped away the somber Maundy Thursday service with its black draped cross, the haunting solo of Where you there when they crucified my Lord?, and the darkened sanctuary.

At this point in Holy Week, we have the somber moments yet to remember and ponder before we celebrate the joyous Easter. And as I look around at my own garden blooming, I am reminded of the two Easter gardens: one of darkness and betrayal, the other of light and joy.

Tomorrow will mark the point in Holy Week when we revisit the darker garden, the garden full of grief and trembling and betrayal, the Garden of Gethsemane.

When Jesus spoke had spoken these words, He went forth with His disciples over the ravine of the Kidron, where there was a garden, in which He entered with His disciples.
– John 18:1

Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to His disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed.
– Matthew 26:36

To read the full events of that night in the garden, read Matthew 26:36–56. The upshot is this: Jesus asked his disciples to stay awake while he went a little ways off to pray. He begged God to change what was about to happen, but Jesus also submitted to God’s will. He scolded the disciples for falling asleep in the face of his distress. He prayed again; they slept again. Judas and the soldiers arrived to arrest Jesus, and the disciples fled.

The second garden is joy-filled. It’s the garden where an empty tomb awaited visitors Sunday morning:

But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying.

And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.”

When she said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus.

Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.”

Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).
– John 20:11–16

I love John’s account of Mary mistaking for Jesus for the gardener. Her eyes and brain and heart weren’t ready yet to see the risen Jesus standing in front of her, alive, in the garden. Are your eyes and brain and heart ready?

I’ll leave you today with a tour of my Easter garden. Most of these flowers I can identify, but I need your help with one of them. I hope you enjoy them. May these blooms remind you of the joy of Easter.


A few blooms still remain on the tulip magnolia, but some days, it looks as though the tree sneezed and shed many of its blossoms.


I was delighted to see that some gardener before me had planted pink azaleas here. Yay!


An iris blooms amid a mass of leaves. The clump of bushes is taller than other irises I’ve seen, and so I was surprised to discover this bloom. I’m enjoying the almost daily surprises in my new Easter garden.


The Jerusalem Sage I planted recently is now blooming. You can see the second whorl starting to bloom, too.


We still have a few oranges left to eat, but the trees are already beginning to flower.


Any idea what these are? I’m enjoying their red/yellow and pink/white color combinations.

Happy Easter, my friends! I’d love to know what’s abloom in your Easter garden and how you celebrate the joyous day.