Lo, how a Rose

Furrows, be glad. Though earth is bare,
One more seed is planted there:
Give up your strength the seed to nourish,
That in course the flower may flourish.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the Rose, is on the way.

Eleanor Farjeon

It has been a Christmas of gold and silver dawns, spiced keen and fragrant by frost; of hushed twilights that wash my little world in a glory of rose-light before fading into the heart-piercing loveliness of a lavender dusk. It has been a Christmas for French carols at the piano and reunions so happy they hurt and red velvet ribbons tied around oranges and homemade candy with specific loved ones in mind. A Christmas of pretty dresses and lazy breakfasts by the fire. Of catnip mice and flaming plum pudding and a host of small children in Christmas finery chasing one another around my backyard in the pale gilding of a winter afternoon. It has been a Christmas for bright new things and blessed old things.

And it has been a Christmas for roses.

I knew that well before the season was upon us, back in the clear, longing spaces of November. I knew it by the thrill of Hope that is the faithful herald of this most beloved of times. And I knew it by the searing stab of that thorn which I’ve carried with me for so long and which only seems to press more deeply into my heart during this season which I love best. I can trace the state of my soul in years past by the Christmases which called for roses. And this was definitely one of them.

Roses at Christmas are my personal statement of faith; my version of perfume, lavished before the coming King. They are my profession that all is well—not because life is perfect or every desire has been accomplished, but because He is. Because He came among us, and He’s still here when Christmas is over. They are my confession that Christmas is not about me and that the wilderness will blossom as the rose, appearances to the contrary notwithstanding. I need to be reminded of these things—often. And I am such a visual person that the sight of roses mingling among my Christmas greens is a constant grounding, a tangible witness of His beauty, present even in the desert places of our lives.

Thou meetest him that rejoiceth, and worketh righteousness… For years now that has been the standard I have borne before me in all my preparations for Christmas; a torch flaming in the darkness. And He does meet us, in our most broken places. And He does work wonders—miracles—even if they are so hidden in the depths of our hearts only He can see them. But miracles, no less.

Christmas roses are my way of taking joy; a wordless ‘thank You’ and ‘I love You’ and ‘Come quickly’ spelled out in blood-red blooms couched amid a nest of ivy leaves and thorn-crowned holly.

The frozen air perfuming
That tiny bloom doth swell ;
Its rays the night illuming,
The darkness quite dispel.
O flower beyond compare
Bloom in our heart’s midwinter;
Restore the springtime there.

Theodore Baker

18 Responses to “Lo, how a Rose”

  1. Maryann E. says:

    What wonderful prose and photos. Thank you for the roses but thank you also for mentioning the thorn. I have a thorn too this time of year, but mainly roses, so I count those.

  2. Josh says:

    Wonderful as always, Lanier. A beautiful and poignant reminder of things both Higher and Deeper; not only at blessed Christmas time, but throughout the year.

    (And just so you know, the passage by Eleanor Farjeon just made my day! One of my favorite authors on one of my favorite blogs! :-) )

  3. Elisabeth says:

    Thank you, Lanier! This is a thoroughly lovely attitude, and one that must give Jesus great joy! I’m grateful you mentioned the thorn, too.

  4. Stacy says:

    Lovely as usual, Lanier. I just have to share the following link with you. Everyone must have had roses on their minds this Christmas.

    http://shellshots.smugmug.com/Religion/Christ-Church-Cathedral/2011Christmas-Eve/i-d2k6D56/0/Th/EarlyService035110-Th.jpg

  5. What a joyful blog to read this cold January day!

  6. Judi says:

    Beautiful. Prose. Poetry. Pictures. Just Beautiful.

  7. Amber Leffel says:

    Lanier, thank you. Yes. I need His “He makes her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the LORD” promise right now (Isaiah 51:3)… Filled with so much fear and gray and despair. Come, Lord Jesus.

  8. Sarah Durham says:

    So beautiful!

  9. Jodi says:

    I will stand in faith and prayer with you. May you SEE all the desires of your heart bloom. And may the fragrance fill your house.

  10. Maria says:

    Lanier, how beautiful. Please never underestimate the power of witness and encouragement in this blog. We had an unexpectedly dark November and December here, and though I couldn’t surface even enough to comment, I still visited this site and found light here in our darkness. You are daily in my prayers (and have been for months) for the strength you have given without even knowing it, for encouraging my heart.

    • Lanier Ivester says:

      Maria, bless your heart. This means the world to me. I am so humbled and blessed to know that the Lord has used anything here to encourage you. And you are a tremendous encouragement to me. I truly cherish your prayers.

  11. Maria says:

    p.s. I didn’t even see the hens in your seventh image until about the seventh look. Funny (of me). Charming (of you).

  12. Maria says:

    This is a link to a British etching artist who was featured in this month’s British Country Living:

    http://bill-yardley.co.uk/

    I thought you would appreciate the sheep…

  13. Charlotte says:

    Because He came among us, and He’s still here when Christmas is over.”
    Thank you for your lovely words. Sometimes it seems they help give words to my own thoughts.
    This year at Christmas, I thought back to the years in the not so far past when I felt awkward singing Christmas Carols/hymns to a Jesus I barely knew holding hands with my Grandma at Christmas Eve service. But now at Christmas time they are familiar old songs that I sing to a familiar Friend, to my Love, my Jesus. And I continue to sing new and old songs to Him and about Him the rest of the year, when Christmas is over.

  14. […] I kept yawning as I sat in church, listening to readings from the books of Luke and Micah, singing carols I’ve sung for years, and one, “Lo How a Rose E’er Blooming” that I’d not sung until that night, but have long loved because of this essay. […]

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