rose in a heart shape drawn in snow

Roses in December

 December 13, 2021

Long before James Barrie wrote of roses in December and Theresa of Lisieux spoke of showering roses from heaven, Our Lady of Guadalupe gave roses to a simple peasant as a sign. What is the significance of roses in December in this day when roses can be purchased through florists all year round? Has it lost its significance?

Our Lady of Guadalupe

In 1531, Our Lady of Guadalupe gave Juan Diego roses to bring to the bishop as proof of her existence. And, if the roses weren’t enough, when Diego opened his cloak and let the roses fall, there was a beautiful picture of a lady wearing a blue cloak with stars, surrounded by sunlight, our Lady of Guadalupe.

The lady came in a form that the Indian peasants could recognize and understand. She came dressed in native attire with symbols that united the Aztec religion with the new faith, Christianity. Unlike the Aztec gods that demanded human sacrifice, or even the Christian God of the Spanish conquistadors who were often far from Christian in their treatment of the natives, she spoke words of love—the love of a mother for her children. It was a miracle of God’s love and grace. In that moment, the course of faith in the world changed forever.

Meaning of Roses in December

Roses have long been recognized as symbols of love. Theresa of Lisieux, the little flower, considered herself the smallest, most insignificant flower in God’s Garden. Yet she became among the greatest of God’s saints for her little ways. She died young, only 24, but told the sisters in her religious order that she would shower down roses from heaven when she died, symbols of God’s love. She also vowed to spend her time in heaven doing good on earth.

James Barrie, creator of the eternally young Peter Pan, wrote, “God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December.”

I’ve long connected roses in December with those memories that keep us warm, not just during the cold of winter, but the cold of the winter of our life, our senior years. This has been challenged as I am far too aware of the ravages of Alzheimer’s/dementia on the memories of those who make it into the elder years of their life, robbing them of these hard-earned roses. (for more on this see blog post on Holy Memory) That doesn’t make this connection irrelevant, but it does challenge me to look further.

What is Significance of Roses in December Today?

So, what does it mean in this modern day to have roses in December?

The miracles of modern technology and greenhouses allow us to have roses in December: tulips, lilies, even exotic flowers, year around. The miracle of modern medicine has allowed us to keep our eye sight, rather than be blind, extended our ability to hear, and made the lame able to walk—all signs of the Messianic age in Isaiah. Does this make them any less a miracle?

Still, there is a danger in these modern miracles. Hubris, human pride, can lead us to believe that we are the masters of the universe, when clearly, that is not true. For all we know, there is so much more we don’t know. At the same time that roses are available year around, those precious memories that Barrie spoke about are not secure from the ravages of time, often slipping away, despite the best efforts of medical professionals.

Little Miracles of Love and a Big Ask

Roses in December are reminders of God’s gratuitous love, and thus always relevant. They are the many little miracles that are all around for those with eyes to see. But that wasn’t enough for God. Lest there be any mistake about the miraculous appearance of our Lady of Guadalupe, God gave us an image, one that was humanly impossible, to remind us that this world isn’t all that there is. There is a reality that is beyond what our human eyes and senses can see, hear, taste, smell, or feel. It was a miracle to remind us that our God is a God of love.

This December, I wish you roses in abundance, little miracles of love. And for the world, I hope for a big miracle, one like the miracle given to Juan Diego and the indigenous people of Mexico. A miracle that has changed the world. I hope and prayer for a world transformed from one of violence and hatred to one of love and forgiveness. I know it’s a big ask, but nothing is too big for our God.

What about you – what does roses in December mean to you? What is your big ask for God this Christmas?


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