The former tenant of our new apartment left behind plastic planter boxes, which run along the top of the balcony railing. When we moved here in July, the boxes had only a few weeds and dried-up remnants of ornamental grass from the summer before. The soil was completely dried up, and we almost threw away the boxes, soil and all, with the idea we would replace them with terracotta. After some discussion, we decided to keep the plastic ones until we find what we are looking for. But since then, our balcony has been edged by ugly white plastic planters with a few bits of dry foliage.
At some point in August, I noticed a few of the weeds were trying to bloom, so I began to water them. The “weeds” turned out to be flowers–we call them Snapdragons in English–that had seeded themselves from the previous season. Straggly blooms started poking up in random places here and there in our row of otherwise lifeless boxes.
Yesterday, the first day of winter, I looked out to see a small but healthy cluster of yellow flowers still blooming at the end of one box, defying the cold and gray of the season, oblivious to their dreary surroundings. I was inspired to try to expound on this visual metaphor–something general along the lines of the hope of spring in winter, or of learning to “bloom where you’re planted.”
But then I made a delightful discovery that sent my imagination soaring to Narnia, where Aslan (the Lion who serves as the Christ figure in the C.S. Lewis children’s classic) brings spring to a land that has been trapped for generations in a deep freeze, where it is ever winter but never Christmas. My discovery was that the German name for the flower in our planter box is: Löwenmaul (Lion’s mouth!).
I am preparing our Lessons & Carols service program for Christmas Eve. The title of the first lesson (reading) from Genesis 3 is: “God tells sinful Adam that he has lost the life of Paradise and that his seed will bruise the serpent’s head.” The Gospel message of God’s Word from the very beginning and down through the centuries is that the old enemy will be overthrown and Paradise restored. A King (Messiah) will come to crush the head of the “serpent” who has brought all creation under the curse of death.
Christmas is the beginning of the fulfillment of the prophecy. In the last lesson of the Lessons & Carols service, St. John unfolds the great mystery of the Incarnation: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” St. John later (in Revelation 5) refers to Jesus as the “Lion of the tribe of Judah.”
I have always thought Snapdragon was a creative name for a flower, but I now I find the German name superior. Winter has begun, but in a few days, Christmas will remind us the head of the serpent (dragon) has been crushed by the Lion! The “Löwenmaul” on our balcony is roaring out the Gospel truth declared in the changing seasons themselves, that life shall be restored where death has reigned since the fall–the truth reformulated in the old “Narnian” prophecy:
“Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight,
At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more,
When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death,
And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.”
– C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Hope to see you on Sunday (10:00) and on Christmas Eve (Monday at 16:00)! For those, I don’t see, I wish you a blessed 4. Advent and a “frohe Weihnachten!”