Quite recently, as you already know if you are in the know about my posts, I posted my Christmas wish list to The Twelve Days of Christmas. Now I'd like to tell you about the real Twelve Days of Christmas, which I had the great pleasure of learning about at a church service very early in 2010, which was appropriate because the actual twelfth day is early in January.
When Christmas Day arrives in all its glory, Advent ends. During Advent -- the four Sundays prior to Christmas -- we prepare for the coming of the Son of God. Beginning on Christmas, we are in the Christmas season, which lasts twelve days and ends the day before Epiphany. Epiphany is January 6th and is the celebration of the arrival of the Wise Men bringing gifts to Jesus.
We don't usually think of The Twelve Days of Christmas, the song, as part of the Christian tradition, but in truth, it is. Immediately, our "true love" brings us a gift. Our true love is God. He gives us everything, and best of all, on Christmas, he gives us His Son. The first gift is "a partridge in a pear tree," which refers to Jesus and the cross. A mother partridge lures enemies and predators away from her nest of defenseless chicks and will even pretend to be wounded to get predators to come after her. Of course, Jesus didn't just pretend to be wounded when He was on the cross. The pear tree symbolizes the cross, which St. Paul describes as a tree in Galatians.
Two Turtle Doves: Mary and Joseph had to sacrifice two doves at the Temple when Jesus was forty days old. Additionally, we have two testaments, the Old and the New. This second gift reminds us of God's Word given to us.
Three French Hens: The first meaning of the three hens is three divine gifts of the Holy Spirit - faith, hope, and love. The second meaning is that of the three valuable gifts given to Jesus because apparently French hens were pricey.
Four Calling Birds: They represent the four Gospels that proclaim the saving message -- Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. They call out to us God's salvation through Jesus our Savior.
Five Gold Rings: These unbroken circles represent the never-ending love we receive from God, just as a wedding ring should proclaim never-ending love. Why five rings? Because of the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible, written by Moses.
Six Geese-a-laying: What are the geese a-laying? Eggs, of course, so they are bringing forth life. This reminds us of God as our life giver.
Seven Swans-a-swimming: Even more beautiful than swans are the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit to us -- prophesying, serving, teaching, encouraging, contributing to the needs of others, leadership, showing mercy.
Eight maids-a-milking: Milk maids are humble serving girls, yet they do important work by providing the family with nourishment. There are eight maids because of the eight Beatitudes given us in the Sermon on the Mount.
Nine Ladies Dancing: Great dancing requires learning and practice, and it is an art form. The Holy Spirit bestows on his trusting ones the nine-fold fruit of the Spirit that shows itself in our lives, and we must learn and practice these fruits -- love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Ten Lords-a-leaping: Lords represent the law of the land; leaping requires great effort. So, the ten Lords represent the Ten Commandments. The Commandments require discipline and effort.
Eleven Pipers Piping: Eleven original apostles remained after Judas had removed himself in unbelief. Jesus sent out the eleven to preach, or in other words, to pipe out loud.
Twelve Drummers Drumming: It's the last day of the Christmas season and God sends us loud drummers. What's the noise all about? Well, drummers set the pace with a firm and steady proclamation of the beat, keeping the peace and holding the group together. Additionally, twelve fundamental teachings of Christianity in the Apostles Creed proclaim how God gives of Himself to save us -- the person of God the Father; the person of Jesus Christ, eternal Son of the Father; who was conceived and born; who suffered, was crucified, died, and was buried; who descended into hell and arose; who ascended to heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father; who will return to judge the world and the universe as we know it; the person of the Holy Spirit; the holy Christian Church; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of our bodies on the last day; and Everlasting Life.
So there you have it. You can think of The Twelve Days of Christmas as a teaching song. How do we learn quickly? Through songs, like singing the alphabet. And of course the jingles sung on commercials can stick, sometimes maddeningly, in our minds. Each day of Christmas gives us some aspect of Christianity to remember and learn more about.
Christmas Bells are ringing!
Infinities of love,