ORRIN MORRIS: Lamb's-quarters' name reminds us of the scene of Jesus' birth

The angel who announced the birth of Jesus chose an unusual audience, a group of humble shepherds. Their lonely and smelly task was important but it was very different from the fragrant quarters of the powerful governor, a place that would have been a more expected venue for the Messiah.

Most depictions of the infant Jesus, whether a painting, a creche, or a live nativity, have shepherds and sheep present.

Those of you who were reared on a farm probably remember the pungent odors of the barns where live stock were quartered. The wildflower for today has a name associated with such a smelly scene.LAMB'S-QUARTERS

Chenopodium albumThe name seems to be derived from the abundant fluffy white blooms that appear in midsummer. This plant is generally regarded as a pest in the same way as chickweed, but chickweed has a more appealing bloom.

The lamb's-quarter blooms occur in dense clusters on the many branched plant. An individual bloom is about 1/16 inch with five short inwardly curved petals. A single stamen curves under each petal. The pistil is very short compared to the ovary, which is the dominant feature in proportion to the size of the bloom.

The leaves are serrated and are either lance-shaped or deltoid as pictured. The plant may rise to 18 inches but in a well attended lawn rarely rises more than 8 inches.

In Luke 2:10 we read the angel's message, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people."

The "good news" is that God is love and this love desires the very best for each of us. The message is "for all people." The shepherds were frightened by the appearance because it was unusual, unexpected and sudden.

Some people are frightened today by the message that calls for their commitment. They fear that faith in Jesus Christ will make demands on them that are humiliating, costly and destructive to their well being.

Such fear is not what God's love produces. His love is always for our well being: to make us morally strong, provide counsel for critical life decisions and give us inner peace through a relationship with God as Heavenly Father. That is the simplest way to explain the Christmas story.

Orrin Morris is a retired Baptist minister, local artist and art teacher. This column is included in a two-volume set of books of wildflower columns he has published. To purchase the books, visit the Nature Seen Gallery & Frame Shop, 914 Center St. in Olde Town Conyers.