I received a surprise parcel in the post a few weeks ago. It wasn’t my birthday, Christmas or a special occasion and the only indication I had that it was coming had been from my eldest son, who lives in Holland. He had seen it and had bought it for me because he realised how much I would like it. He described it as a special bulb, so I was surprised to find a single tulip bulb in the packet; usually the packet contains five or ten tulip bulbs. So, what was going to be special about a single bulb?
All the information on the packet was in Dutch and I don’t speak Dutch, and neither was I going to ask him for an interpretation! However, enclosed in the packet was a plastic label with planting instructions. The words were in Dutch, but the illustrations were easily recognisable. There was one single flower stem and bulb with a horizontal line and arrow indicating the number of centimetres between each bulb and a vertical line with an arrow indicating the predicted full height of the plant. A pair of scissors indicated how to cut it and a small drawing with two suns, one bright yellow and one dark, indicated that the bulb prefers full sun. I didn’t need to know Dutch to understand that. There was no language barrier for a gardener and my son knows how much I appreciate my garden.
In two weeks it will be Christmas. There will be much giving and receiving of presents, not only in our country but throughout the world. Although the celebrations of Christmas will be different the heart of Christmas will remain the same. There will be a celebration of thanksgiving and love. True love expresses warmth and acceptance that gives the opportunity to hope when all seems lost and encourages peace where there has been adversity and animosity. This love offers joy instead of dismissiveness and hatred. We can see it as people exchange their greetings and gifts. There isn’t a language barrier.
I have planted the bulb. All that can be seen is brown earth and now I have to wait, hoping and trusting that in April that bulb will send out its stem, leaves and bud which on one warm sunny day will open up into a colourful tulip. We have the opportunity at Christmas to receive the love of God which gives us hope and the incentive to trust again. May you know God’s love, peace, hope and joy this Christmas.