Planting Seeds at Christmas

Jesus wasn’t born as a baby, he was planted as a seed.

Jesus refers to himself agriculturally a few times: In John 12, he refers to his life as a grain of wheat that has to fall to the earth and die in order to bear fruit. In John 4 he tells the disciples that they are reapers, harvesting what has grown because of the work of others, including himself. And in the parable of the sower, he is both sower and seed, because he is himself the word of God.

Paul picked up on this metaphor, referring to himself as a sower of seed, the seed being faith in Christ. He planted, his colleague Apollos watered, but the growth belongs to God. And he tells us this in 2 Corinthians: “the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

We, like Jesus who came before us, are sowers of seed. We have the choice of what kinds of seeds we will sow, and where. We can avoid planting seeds where we think they won’t grow, or where we don’t want them to grow. We can plant weeds or trees. Sometimes, too, we have the opportunity to water, prune, shelter, and nurture what is growing.

The point of my metaphor is this: in this season of holidays, we’ll have plenty of opportunities to interact with people. These people might seem like they’re not worth our time because they’re too backwards, too negative, too boring, or too mean. Every person you meet over the holidays, though, is a child of God. Every person you meet is someone that God has invested everything into. God has been walking alongside that person since before they were born. You may not be able to change them, to convince them of your opinions, to make them like you, or to make them treat you with respect.

But you can plant a seed.

In the parable of the sower, Jesus tells us that the sower plants seeds on all types of ground. Only one type gives good growth, but that dumb sower still wastes seed on every type of ground he comes across. Jesus tries to plant seeds of love and compassion and justice in people regardless of whether those seeds will take hold or not. We have the ability to follow that example.

When you run into that difficult person, the one who offends you, belittles you, or upsets you, what kind of seed will you plant? Will you ignore them or dismiss them? Will you antagonize them, bully them, or belittle them? Or will you avoid giving in to temptation and treat them with respect, with dignity, with compassion, with love? Yes, it is exhausting to be compassionate to people who have regularly mistreated you (and by no means do you need to expose yourself to violence in an attempt to be compassionate), but this is the difficult work to which we have been called.

The baby Jesus was a seed planted on rocky ground that barely managed to take hold. The seed was not well received, was in danger from the moment it was planted, and two thousand years later – though grown large – is only sporadically bearing fruit. But thank God for that seed. It’s what gives me hope. It’s what allows me to be compassionate to people who aren’t kind in return, it’s what allows me to show love to people even when it doesn’t seem to make a difference. It’s what is allowing me to let go of the need to fix everyone and everything and simply plant the seed, letting God provide some growth. Because Christ was planted in me, I’ll keep planting, and one day there will be growth, and fruit, and finally a harvest of love and joy and justice and compassion. It reminds me of an old hymn, which tells the story of that exact promise:

Sowing in the morning, sowing seeds of kindness,
Sowing in the noontide and the dewy eve;
Waiting for the harvest, and the time of reaping,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

Sowing in the sunshine, sowing in the shadows,
Fearing neither clouds nor winter’s chilling breeze;
By and by the harvest, and the labor ended,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

Going forth with weeping, sowing for the Master,
Tho’ the loss sustained our spirit often grieves;
When our weeping’s over, He will bid us welcome,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves;
Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.