Sunday, December 25, 2016

Happy First Day of Christmas!

The meadow outside our back gate, Christmas Eve Morning, 2016, taken by Keith Barrett

Here in the mountains east of (usually) sunny San Diego, we woke to a blanket of snow this Christmas Eve, and more snow is due tonight--just a smidge. This will be our first White Christmas is the fifteen years we've lived in this small mountain community.

Now, onto Christmastide . . . .

For some reason, most evangelical Christians--and many outside of the church--believe that the Twelve Days of Christmas precede December 25, with Christmas Day being the Twelfth Day.

But as I became more Anglican in belief and practice, I soon discovered that the Twelve Days of Christmas begin on December 25 and end on January 5, Twelfth Night. We always have a wonderful Twelfth Night party at the home of our parish priest, Father Acker, and his lovely wife Alice makes the most splendid trifle along with other treats. Nothing says "Twelfth Night" to me more than a tiny glass of sweet sherry and a heaping helping of Alice's trifle!

Christianity Today has posted a very cool article on celebrating the Twelve Days of Christmas right here: "The Real 12 Days of Christmas."

And then there's the celebrating of Christmas for twelve days rather than trying to squeeze so much time with family and friends into only one day!

Christmas ends with the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6 in which the Magi, whom my younger brother used to call "The Wise Guys," visit the Child Jesus and present their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. When our kids were younger, we used to allow Christmas as a timeto receive gifts from extended family and the kids would get their stockings from Keith and me, but their big family gift would be given to them on Epiphany: our first Xbox (of many!), an air hockey table, etc., with smaller gifts opened one a day throughout the Twelve Days of Christmastide.

The Twelve Days of Christmas, courtesy of Wikipedia
But I've always come back to the lovely "Twelve Days of Christmas" song which I first learned from my parents' 8-track Christmas tape of Mitch Miller and the Sing-Along Gang. Now I much prefer Bing Crosby's version. And although there is a great deal of debate about the authenticity of Christian content in the "Twelve Days of Christmas," I like to believe in possible Christian significance wherever I can find it.

The Catholic News Agency has posted "The History of the Twelve Days of Christmas," and the reason for this song was of vast importance to Catholics during the English Reformation:

"The song, 'The Twelve Days of Christmas' is an English Christmas carol. From 1558 until 1829, Roman Catholics in England were not permitted to practice their faith openly. Someone during that era wrote this carol as a catechism song for young Catholics. It has two levels of meaning: the surface meaning plus a hidden meaning known only to members of the Church. Each element in the carol has a code word for a religious reality which the children could remember." 

Even though my favorite Urban Legends site debunks these Christian meanings as "false," they also couldn't show evidence for this NOT being true. So whatever the historical truth is, the devotional below, courtesy of Christian Research Institute, points us to Jesus in a wonderful way. 


On the 1st day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...

A Partridge in a Pear Tree: The partridge in a pear tree is Jesus the Christ, the Son of God, whose birthday we celebrate on December 25, the first day of Christmas. In the song, Christ is symbolically presented as a mother partridge that feigns injury to decoy predators from her helpless nestlings, recalling the expression of Christ's sadness over the fate of Jerusalem: "Jerusalem! Jerusalem! How often would I have sheltered you under my wings, as a hen does her chicks, but you would not have it so . . . ." (Luke 13:34)

On the 2nd day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...

Two Turtle Doves: The Old and New Testaments, which together bear witness to God's self-revelation in history and the creation of a people to tell the Story of God to the world.

On the 3rd day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...

Three French Hens: The Three Theological Virtues: 1) Faith, 2) Hope, and 3) Love (1 Corinthians 13:13)

On the 4th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...

Four Calling Birds: The Four Gospels: 1) Matthew, 2) Mark, 3) Luke, and 4) John, which proclaim the Good News of God's reconciliation of the world to Himself in Jesus Christ.

On the 5th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...

Five Gold Rings: The first Five Books of the Old Testament, known as the Torah or the Pentateuch: 1) Genesis, 2) Exodus, 3) Leviticus, 4) Numbers, and 5) Deuteronomy, which gives the history of humanity's sinful failure and God's response of grace in the creation of a people to be a light to the world.

On the 6th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...

Six Geese A-laying: The six days of creation that confesses God as Creator and Sustainer of the world (Genesis 1).

On the 7th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...

Seven Swans A-swimming: The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: 1) prophecy, 2) ministry, 3) teaching, 4) exhortation, 5) giving, 6) leading, and 7) compassion (Romans 12:6-8; cf. 1 Corinthians 12:8-11)

On the 8th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...

Eight Maids A-milking: The eight Beatitudes: 1) Blessed are the poor in spirit, 2) those who mourn, 3) the meek, 4) those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, 5) the merciful, 6) the pure in heart, 7) the peacemakers, 8) those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake. (Matthew 5:3-10)

On the 9th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...

Nine Ladies Dancing: The nine Fruit of the Holy Spirit: 1) love, 2) joy, 3) peace, 4) patience, 5) kindness, 6) goodness, 7) faithfulness, 8) gentleness, and 9) self-control. (Galatians 5:22)

On the 10th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...

Ten Lords A-leaping: The ten commandments: 1) You shall have no other gods before me; 2) Do not make an idol; 3) Do not take God's name in vain; 4) Remember the Sabbath Day; 5) Honor your father and mother; 6) Do not murder; 7) Do not commit adultery; 8) Do not steal; 9) Do not bear false witness; 10) Do not covet. (Exodus 20:1-17)

On the 11th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...

Eleven Pipers Piping: The eleven Faithful Apostles: 1) Simon Peter, 2) Andrew, 3) James, 4) John, 5) Philip, 6) Bartholomew, 7) Matthew, 8) Thomas, 9) James bar Alphaeus, 10) Simon the Zealot, 11) Judas bar James. (Luke 6:14-16). The list does not include the twelfth disciple, Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus to the religious leaders and the Romans.

On the 12th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...

Twelve Drummers Drumming: The twelve points of doctrine in the Apostles' Creed: 1) I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. 2) I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. 3) He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. 4) He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell [the grave]. 5) On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. 6) He will come again to judge the living and the dead. 7) I believe in the Holy Spirit, 8) the holy catholic Church, 9) the communion of saints, 10) the forgiveness of sins, 11) the resurrection of the body, 12) and life everlasting. 

-Dennis Bratcher, Copyright © 2006, Dennis Bratcher, All Rights Reserved


The Collect for Christmas Eve from The Book of Common Prayer 2011 reads:

O GOD, you made this most holy night to shine with the brightness of your one true light; As we have known the mystery of his light on earth, may we receive him as our Redeemer and come to behold the radiance of his glory in heaven; Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and rules with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen. 

(The Collect and Readings for Christmastide will be included in the sidebar of this blog through December 31.)

Our Home, Christmas Eve Morning, 2016, taken by Keith Barrett

From our home to yours, we wish you and yours a joyous Christmastide and a healthy and blessed New Year!

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