Friday, December 27, 2013

The 12 Days of Christmas

During these twelve days between the time we celebrate the birth of Jesus on Christmas Day, and the time we celebrate the Wise Men visiting on Epiphany, the liturgical church celebrates the season of Christmas.  The 12 Days of Christmas provide a way to explore some basic teachings of the Christian faith.

On the 12th day of Christmas my true love
sent to me:

     Twelve Drummers Drumming
     Eleven Pipers Piping
     Ten Lords a Leaping
     Nine Ladies Dancing
     Eight Maids a Milking
     Seven Swans a Swimming
     Six Geese a Laying
     Five Golden Rings
     Four Calling Birds
     Three French Hens
                                                                                Two Turtle Doves                                                                                                                                   and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

There are differences of opinions about the origin and meaning of this song.  However, for these twelve days, we'll explore the references that point to elements of the Christian faith.

Growing up, part of my family was of Eastern Orthodox tradition.  My immediate family celebrated Christmas only as a secular holiday, so it was years later that I began to understand the meaning of the religious traditions I experienced as a child with my Armenian grandparents. 

The Eastern and Western Christian traditions recognize different religious calendars, so my Armenian grandparents always celebrated Christmas on January 6.  The church body in which I now worship and serve follows a liturgical calendar, which provides a rich framework for teaching the faith.  
On the 1st day of Christmas my true love gave to me...

A Partridge in a Pear Tree.

The first day of Christmas is celebrated on December 25, remembering the day of Christ's birth.  

My true love = God himself, not an earthly suitor
Me = those who have received the gift of faith from the Lord
The Partridge = Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Christmas!  The day Christians celebrate the day God entered His creation as a man, born of a virgin, as foretold in the Scriptures, to save the people from sin.  

This stanza may be a reference to Jesus's response to the Pharisees:

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killer of prophets,
        abuser of the messengers of God!
How often I've longed to gather your children,
        gather your children like a hen,
Her brood safe under her wings—
        but you refused and turned away!  
LUKE 13:34 (The Message)

I hear the longing of God expressed in these words; the desire of God for His creation know Him as the loving creator and redeemer.  It also expresses sadness as a result of those who turn away and refuse... 
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  JOHN 3:16 (NIV)

God loved   AND   God gave

“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.  JOHN 3:16-18 (The Message)

For those who have received the gift, the Lord also calls into His mission to share this gift.  This is Mission, Jesus style.  To know the Lord, to know and take on His nature and character in such a way that our lives reflect the gift of love we've received.  

God's gift is love!

Receive the gift!

Respond in love!

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