It is a new year, and most of our Christmas decorations have been taken down and packed for another 340 or so days until we pull them out again. Mine, of course, are still up and will be until January 6th, also known as Epiphany or, as some in Eastern Europe still celebrate, Christmas (in the orthodox churches).
Even though most of the trimmings are now put away, you might be interested to know that we are still in the Christmas season! Historically, the 12 days of Christmas began either on Christmas Day or the day after. In fact, in Europe, Christmas wasn’t just celebrated on the Eve and the Day, but for almost two weeks following. The “season” continued on.
We are all familiar with the song, “12 Days of Christmas,” and sometimes probably wish we weren’t when it goes on and on and on. Although it is just a folk song that relates to the culture of its time, back in the 1970s, a Canadian English teacher and hymnologist, Hugh D. McKellar, “decoded” the 12 days of gifts as a sort of catechism for children to learn about their faith. It was portrayed as being used to teach Catholic children about their faith when Protestantism was the rule in England. While that was, however, not true, the associations made by McKellar can cause us to remember the true meaning and/or genesis of the season of Christmas.
A partridge in a pear tree = Jesus
Two turtle doves = The Old and New Testaments
Three French hens = The three kings bearing gifts
Four calling [sic] birds = The four Gospels
Five gold rings = The Torah or Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament
Six geese a-laying = The six days of Creation
Seven swans a-swimming = Seven gifts of the Holy Spirit
Eight maids a-milking = The eight Beatitudes
Nine ladies dancing = Nine fruits of the Holy Spirit
Ten lords a-leaping = The Ten Commandments
Eleven pipers piping = The eleven faithful Apostles
Twelve drummers drumming = The twelve points of the Apostles’ Creed
When I was a child I used to listen to my mom’s copy of Wink Martindale’s album, especially the song about the deck of cards. A young man in the military had his deck of cards which he used to remember the gospel. The ace reminded him that there was one God while, like the song above, the two reminded him of the Old and New Testaments. The three reminded him of the Trinity, and on it went. The story was a fabrication, not true as it held itself out to be, but once again, it was a reminder of how commonplace, everyday things can bring us back to faith, to God.
What in your life do you relate to your faith? Is it the objects in nature, a newborn animal or child, a flower pushing through the snow (if we get any this year), or the buds on the trees in spring? What of the commonplace things of our everyday experiences remind you of the one who sent His only Son for you, that you might become a child of God?
I have to admit that when I’m playing cards I don’t usually think of the Trinity (Father, Son, Holy Spirit), or of the Bible, or of the four gospels! But, once in a while, when I’m driving down the road, or washing dishes, or whatever, I stop to see God in my daily life. I stop to remember that the traffic, or crazy drivers, or burned pots are not all there is to this life. Beyond the senses, beyond the emotions, there is a realm that overshadows and a God who overcomes. I enjoy my life, even the hard parts, but I am able to do so primarily because I know that beyond all of these things, and through all of these things, I am given the opportunity to draw closer to God, to become more like Christ. I know that one day all of these things will pass away, but my relationship with Christ will never pass away, but grow stronger.
Even if you have put away your decorations, why not hum a few bars of “The 12 Days” and think about McKellar’s associations. In fact, a new year is a great time to make a resolution to go to the source for your growth this year. There are a number of programs for reading the Bible through in a year. One is found on http://www.BibleGateway.com. Associations are great, but learning about God from the Scriptures is even better. Find out about your faith. Attend a Bible study. Pray.
Need joy? Pray. Need peace? Pray. Read God’s Word. Meet with God’s people. Feel unloved? Meet God through Jesus. You are loved beyond any possible human relationship by the One who sent His Son, not only to be born in a manager and celebrated on one or two days each year, but who came to die on a cross that our sins might be forgiven. If you haven’t asked God for forgiveness, why not do so today? If you have received forgiveness, don’t live any longer in fear or shame, but rejoice in God’s love for you and the freedom that comes from God’s Spirit. Celebrate life! How? In Christ!
Have a Happy New Year!
Mary Kay Glunt, Pastor
Ebenezer Presbyterian Church
P.O. 393, Grenfield, MO 65661