by April Yamasaki —
For Christmas last year I received an amaryllis bulb—the kind that’s shipped in a box with the premixed soil, plastic pot, and step-by-step instructions. Just as directed, I planted the bulb up to its neck in the potting soil and placed the pot in a warm spot with good light. The stem had already started growing while still in the box, so I watered the soil lightly, and hoped the pale growth would turn green as it grew.
The stem did grow and green up a bit, but then it seemed to lose heart. It was too weak to stand up straight and soon had bent double. I hoped a second stem might emerge to produce bright red flowers like the ones shown on the box, but as it turned out I hoped in vain. All I got were leaves—so healthy, dark green, and long and longer that they stretched out beyond the table top, and lasted until the end of October.
I’m disappointed that my amaryllis bulb didn’t flower, but I hope the vigour of its leaves allowed it to store up energy enough to bloom this year. At least that’s what I hope for as my bulb is resting now in a cool, dark closet. Soon it will be time to pot it in fresh soil, bring it into the light, and place it in a warm spot. Will a stem emerge healthy and strong this time? Will there be flowers standing at the top like a brilliant red crown? Or is my green thumb only for the leaves?
This year my amaryllis bulb is my unexpected symbol of Advent. It reminds me that far from being passive, waiting takes some tending. Waiting means watching in expectation. Sometimes waiting leads to more waiting. Just as I wait again in expectation of amaryllis flowers, we are again waiting for Christmas, just as we did last year and the year before and the years before that. We wait for the fullness of time to celebrate the coming of Christ the King.
For some Christians in the early church, the expectation of Christ’s return was so strong and so immediate that they stopped working. Why work to build a house when the Lord will come before you have time to finish? Why work in the fields, when the Lord will come before the harvest? Why bother to make a living when the end is so near? Why not just sit and wait?
And so they sat idle—and became a burden to those in their community who continued to work. To address this, 2 Thessalonians 3:10-13 (NIV) gave these instructions:
For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work
shall not eat.” We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they
are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down
and earn the food they eat. And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is
So while I’m waiting for my amaryllis to bloom, while we’re waiting for Christ the King at Christmas and in the fullness of time, I’m taking these words to heart. Let us do the work that God has set before us and never tire of doing good.