Good Good Friday

Transient
He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
— 1 Peter 2:22-25
Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
— Isaiah 53:4-6

Discovering Mistletoe

All I knew of Mistletoe was that you kiss under it at Christmastime. I was surprised to hear that it grew wild in the South. I was also surprised to hear that it grew on trees. Mistletoe is not a tree, but a parasitic shrub that grows out of the branches of existing trees like oaks. I began to look up and around, and sure enough, there it was all around me, high up in the trees of my own yard.

At a quick glance you might assume it is a squirrel's nest left over from the summer. But with a longer look and a closer inspection you will notice that it is not a mass of brown dead leaves, but green, like strange and untimely new growth on an otherwise dormant and barren tree. 

The boys and I decided we would try to harvest some for ourselves. Apparently, the preferred way to harvest mistletoe in the South is to shoot it out of the tree with a shotgun. I was a little skeptical about this approach for many reasons. So we hauled out an old ladder we found in the barn and hoped it would reach high enough. That's another thing about mistletoe. It seems to prefer the highest branches on a tree on which to grow. We could only reach a small clump of it from the top of our ladder. Even this relatively "low growing" cluster was a little too high for my comfort and letting go of the ladder to do my clipping (and photographing) left me more than a little uneasy. 

The botanical name for American Mistletoe, Phoradendron leucarpum, is derived from the Greek words for "tree thief". It is a hemi-parasitic shrub which obtains water and nutrients from its host, although it also produces some of its own food through its own photosynthetic processes. The common name "Mistletoe" may come from the Anglo-Saxon words for "dung twig". This alludes to the plants method of propagation. Some birds enjoy eating the sticky white mistletoe berries which, when passed through the digestive system and deposited on a branch, may germinate into a new plant.

Kissing Under the Dung Twig

It is unclear why we kiss under mistletoe. The practice may have originated with the Druids who believed the plant to be sacred. It is said that if two enemies met under a mistletoe plant, they must lay down their weapons, great each other warmly and observe a truce until the following day. 

In any case, we have been kissing under the "dung twig" for hundreds of years. Washington Irving referenced the tradition in The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent., first published in 1819. 

the mistletoe, with its white berries, hung up, to the imminent peril of all the pretty housemaids.** The mistletoe is still hung up in farm-houses and kitchens at Christmas; and the young men have the privilege of kissing the girls under it, plucking each time a berry from the bush. When the berries are all plucked, the privilege ceases.

The only mistletoe we were able to reach was devoid of any berries, so I guess our kissing privileges were gone before they even began.

I think I need some hand lotion.

I think I need some hand lotion.

A Picture Perfect Christmas

The boys embelished the "Christ" candle
with their names, a Christmas tree, and a Santa hat.

 

At the beginning of this Christmas season I wrote about how we were late getting started with our Advent candle lighting and how my best laid plans for beautiful moments often end up as cautionary tales. But then I posted twenty-five days of cute little handmade needle-felted ornaments depicting twenty-five names of Jesus. This may have given you the impression that I indeed had it all together, and that we are over-flowing with dreamy, cute-as-pie family moments over here. That is so not the case.

Let me begin by confessing that while I was faithful about posting a name of Jesus each and every day, I was not so faithful about actually hanging them on the tree with the boys. We were consistently three to five days behind. Ironically, blogging about the wonderful things you are going to do with your children often supersedes actually doing them.

I thought it would be appropriate to close this holiday season, much as I began it, by posting a highlight video of this years' annual Christmas day advent candle lighting ceremony.

Jesus

His name is Jesus, which in Hebrew means "Jehovah is salvation".


But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

 

Matthew 1:20-21

 

For Advent I am listing 25 Names of Jesus for the 25 days of Christmas; see them all here.