Summary: God comes in Christ to heal our disloyalty, to judge and yet cure our sin, to help us flourish. Illustrated with Chrismons.
When I was twelve years old, our family moved to a house larger than the one we had been in. With a larger house came more yard, and with more yard came more plants to care for and more lawn to mow.
If anybody was going to do any gardening at our home, it would have to be my father. My mother, so far as I can remember, never ever so much as touched a tree, picked a flower, clipped a blade of grass, or any such thing, in her whole life. She absolutely cared nothing for green and growing things. You have heard of the radical envrionmentalists who hug shrubs, because they love them so much? Well, my mother snubbed shrubs, because she disdained them so much. And so it was clear from the very beginning that if we were to have any garden at all, it would have to be my father’s project.
As for me, well, twelve years old is prime lawn mowing and leaf raking age. When we moved to this house, the first thing I noticed was just how much lawn there was to mow, and worse, how much trimming to do. My father didn’t go with this business of mowing and leaving the sidewalks cluttered with overhanging grass. No, not him! If you mowed for him, you had to clip, with hand shears, because, you know, when I was twelve years old, they hadn’t even invented edgers yet. In fact, if they had power mowers, we didn’t know anything about them. Push, push, push! You clipped every inch with hand shears; and I discovered, with horror, that we had moved to a corner lot. That meant I had to clip both sides of not one, but two, long sidewalks, plus the curbs, plus the pathways to the front door and the side door. When I first saw that lawn, I saw my summers melting away into an endless routine of pushing, clipping, sweeping, and hauling, the likes of which would stifle any hopes whatever about baseball or bicycle riding.
But there was one bright spot, one encouraging thing. On one side of our back yard, there was a large tree, and under that tree, spreading in a wide bed, were hundreds of little green plants I was told were called “Lilies of the Valley.” As far as the shade of that tree reached, under its shade these plants had seeded and were flourishing. It was a large bed, and, glory be, it did not have to be mowed. It was not grass and it could stay just as it was, undisturbed.
My mother said, “I don’t like those lilies of the valley. Can’t we have grass there instead?” I held my breath. My father said, “Are you going to pull up the lilies and plant the grass?” My mother said, “I don’t like yard work.” Duh. As if we didn’t know. I felt like saying, “I don’t like yard work either”, but somehow guessed that that was not going to be persuasive. I held my breath and heard words that remain music to my ears, as my father rendered his verdict, “Well, I like the lilies, and besides, it’s just that much lawn that Joe won’t have to mow.!” Wow! Christmas in June! He not only made the right decision; He even understood my need!
I found myself liking, no, loving, that little green plant, the lily of the valley. To my mother it was a sprawling weed. To me it was like good medicine, it was a relief, it was healing. The lily of the valley saved me from almost endless drudgery for summer after summer!
Solomon sang of the Christ who was to come, “I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys. As a lily among brambles, so is my love among maidens”. And as last week we saw that the red, red rose was a sign of the price to be paid, the ransom to be given, so that our lives might flourish; so this week we discover that the lily is the sign of God’s healing love. It is the mark of His freely given life. And it points, this lily of the valley, to something wonderful. “I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys. As a lily among brambles, so is my love among maidens.”
And the prophet Hosea, one of my favorites, ends his prophecy with a reference to this flower, the lily of the valley, the sprawling weed that gives medicine and healing to God’s people:
Nestled in the Chrismon Tree, among all the signs and symbols of Christ, is not only the rose, proudly and grandly displayed, as we showed you last week; but also humbly, almost apologetically, the lily of the valley.