Thursday, December 26, 2013

December has marched along in its usual frenetic style with Christmas and holiday parties combined with shopping and working all dressed up in twinkling lights, sparkling ornaments, ribbons and bows and before we know it, Christmas, with a chaser of New Year's, is over and the dark days of winter settle in.  Well, not really-- not if you count the twelve days of Christmas meticulously itemized in the grand old Christmas Carol, "The Twelve Days of Christmas."   This lovely, old, and very recognizable song was first published in 1780 in England but is thought to be of French origin and sprang out of the Catholic tradition.

When I was little, and really until only a few years ago, I thought it was a charming old nursery rhyme that perhaps children of centuries ago used to sing and dream about at Christmas time.  After all, there was no Walmart or Target, but I have come to find out that all of the gifts that seem to get bigger and grander as the song progresses, is packed with hidden meanings that describe the bones of the Christian faith.

This year, just before Christmas, my sister Chris had me running all over Northern Virginia collecting and sending to her the "Twelve Days of Christmas" ornaments she had started buying when she was here visiting back in October, making my Christmas rush all the more rushed.   Of course, I, the more rational one of the two of us, bought a complete set for me, to begin with, in order to save myself from running around.

In the midst of all of this, my friend Judy sent through this reminder of what the Christmas season is really about through an email message that had been circulating.  It explains this lovely old French/English/Catholic based Christmas carol, "The Twelve Days of Christmas" which begins on Christmas Day--the first day of Christmas-and it goes like this...

1. The partridge in a pear tree represents the Baby Jesus.

2. Two turtle doves are the Old and New Testaments.

Have you ever noticed that deer are NOT mentioned in this song?
3. Three French hens stand for faith, hope and love.

4. The four calling birds are the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

5. Five golden rings recall the Torah or law which are the first five books of the Old Testament.

6. Six geese a-laying stands for the six days it took God to create heaven and earth.

7. Seven swans a-swimming represent the seven-fold gifts of the Holy Spirit; Prophesy, Serving,Teaching, Exhortation,Contribution, Leadership and Mercy.

8. The eight maids a a-milking are the eight Beatitudes.

9. Nine ladies dancing represents the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit; love, peace, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.

10. Ten lords a-leaping are the Ten Commandments.

11. Eleven pipers stand for the eleven faithful disciples.

12. And finally--The twelve drummers drumming symbolize the twelve points of Christian belief in the apostles Creed.

And, of course, "my true love" is our Gracious and Loving God!

So, on this second day of Christmas, as we all rush back to the stores to return and exchange gifts (although I'm pretty sure two turtle doves will not be among those items) then come home to clean up from yesterdays festivities and resume our busy lives, perhaps we can appreciate some of these greatest of gifts that define the Christian faith!  Now, I have to go and find yet another "Twelve Days of Christmas" ornament that Chris did not get while she was here, sighhhhhh.  I wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and maybe a couple of golden rings, too!

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