Advent and Christmas were always bright and happy times in my childhood home. While focus was on preparing for the coming of Christ, mixed in with that anticipation was the fun of decorating. Red was everywhere and in every room. My mother made sure our home reflected the joy heralded by the angels of peace on earth and goodwill to all men, with the manger scene a focal point. We had red plaid table cloths in the dining room and playful elves hanging from every conceivable perch. I came to love the significance of all these bright red and green decorating traditions.
Several years ago, a cardinal perched outside my window one morning. He was a magnificent contrast against the small oak tree in my backyard, and reminded me of my father who faithfully put out black sunflower seeds (the best kind) for the cardinals gracing our home. My mother has kept a stained-glass cardinal on her bedroom window along with a myriad of colored-glass crucifixes, chalices, and other professions of her enduring faith. She believes that my dad, long gone, signals to her when the cardinals come and visit.
So, my mind wandered the trail of how much the color red permeates our world and how God created so many variations for our delight. Do you know how many names there are for this color called red? I didn’t, and so I looked it up and daydreamed about the marvelous range of reds in existence. But it was the deep scarlet of the cardinal that led me on a path to remember our Savior, not at His birth but at His redemptive sacrifice – and through my father – His teachings from the Sermon on the Mount. At the end of the trail, one thing was crystal clear to me, one realization that I needed at the time; Jesus loves me , all of us, beyond our imagining, beyond all else in this created world. I marvel at God’s wisdom in creating a small bird with such power to move the human heart, to lift our spirits toward heaven, and to give me memories of my devout parents.
The following poem was born from the gift of red given to me through inspiring parents. What memories bring warmth and comfort to you? Feel free to share special holiday memories or traditions.
More than poinsettias and red curly-ribboned Christmas gifts,
more than glossy lacquered lines of red candy apples in the window,
more than clumsy Crayola-red shapes on a toddler’s first piece of art,
more than sumptuous strawberry-red berries begging to be tasted,
more than the competent clarity of fire engine reds racing to rescue,
the deep scarlet cardinal captures me
in the fleeting seconds of his landing,
in the sound of his song,
in the almost imperceptible rising and falling of his splendid chest.
He breathes life and bleeds red,
as red as the drops of blood
falling from our Savior’s wounds
and causes me to remember my father
quoting Matthew 6:26 from his red Douay-Rheims
“ Behold the birds of the air, for they neither sow,
nor do they reap, nor gather into barns;
and your heavenly Father feedeth them.
Are not you of much more value than they?”
In this cardinal red moment,
the two hundred and eighty four other shades
referenced in books