ORRIN MORRIS: Star-of Bethlehem blooms only in the sunlight

The Hebrew people were under the rule of the Romans at the time of Jesus' birth. There were soldiers everywhere "keeping order" so that Roman rule was preserved.

If a soldier chose to assert his authority he could command any Hebrew to carry his equipment a mile. After doing his duty, the Hebrew could return to his task.

Besides this and other demands by the occupying army, high taxes were levied to support the invaders.

Although the Hebrews felt oppressed, they held onto hope for the Messiah as recorded in the writings of Isaiah and other ancient prophets. Colored by their circumstances, their vision of the Messiah was one who would raise an army that would liberate the people and reestablish the royal lineage of the great King David.

God had different plans. The Messiah was the Prince of Peace. He taught that if you were commanded to carry the burden one mile, "go with him two" (Matthew 5:41).

The liberation that the Messiah brought starts in one's heart and spreads outward through love. May this season expand your journey of faith through new and lasting relationships.STAR-OF-BETHLEHEM

Ornithogalum umbellatumThis plant blooms in the spring, but its name refers to the star that led the wise men to the Christ-child.

This wildflower was introduced to the U.S. from the Mediterranean region and has "escaped" from domestication into the wild. Its favorite habitat is grassy areas. It is almost as if it sought that habitat to hide itself from our view, according to Frank D. Venning in "Wildflowers of North America, A Guide to Field Identification."

Star-of-Bethlehem is in the lily family as can be noted by the leaves and the curvature of the flower petals. More specifically though, the leaves range from 4 to 12 inches long. Often the grass-like leaves have a greenish-white mid rib.

The 1 -inch white flowers have six waxy petals. The six-pointed star on the flag of modern Israel is known as the Star of David. The most distinguishing characteristics of the flowers are the green stripe on the under side of the petal, and the upturn of the petal, a sort of cup shape.

It is easy to miss seeing this wildflower because it blooms only in the sunlight. You won't see it on rainy or dark, cloudy days. On partly sunny days only those in open spaces, away from trees, will produce a flower or two. But to see a real burst of blooms, choose a cloudless spring day.

The long thin leaves of the Star-of-Bethlehem grow in clumps from a bulb that looks somewhat like an onion. The bulb contains toxins that produce symptoms of depression and bloating if ingested. It has been known to cause death, so if you must handle it, do so carefully.

This coming Sunday is celebrated as Epiphany in many denominations. The word means "manifestation" or "striking appearance."

This date is most often celebrated for the arrival of the Magi (Matthew 2:1-12). When they appeared before Herod they made it clear that they had journeyed to worship the newly born King of the Jews.

The wondrous star that inspired their journey, known as the Star of Bethlehem, clearly manifests that God intends salvation to include all of humankind, Gentiles and Jews alike.

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 Street in Olde Town Conyers.