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The 12 Days of Christmas

December 29, 2009

By Sister Claudia 

Happy Holiday … I pray that your Christmas is filled with many special blessings! A very familiar song comes to mind as we celebrate this Christmas Season; “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” Here’s a little trivia I came across to bring this special song to life…

It is believed (though this is not for certain) that this song, dating back to the 16th century, was “crafted” mnemonically so that it could be used as a secret learning tool (because of the religious disputes in England) to teach youngsters their catechism. Interesting to note are the references to “my true love” and “me.” My True Love – is intended to represent God (not an earthly suitor) and Me (the one who receives the presents) refers to every baptized person who is part of the Christian Faith.

On the 1st day of Christmas my true love sent to me…A Partridge in a Pear Tree – The partridge in a pear tree is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. In the song, Christ is symbolically presented as a mother partridge that feigns injury to decoy predators from her helpless nestlings, much in memory of 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 sent 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 sent to me…Three French Hens – The Three Theological Virtues: Faith, Hope, and Love (1 Corinthians 13:13).

On the 4th day of Christmas my true love sent to me…Four Calling Birds – The Four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and 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 sent to me…Five Gold Rings – The first Five Books of the Old Testament, known as the Torah or the Pentateuch: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and 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 sent 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 sent to me…Seven Swans A-swimming – The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord (Isaiah 11: 2).

On the 8th day of Christmas my true love sent to me…Eight Maids A-milking – The eight Beatitudes: Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake (Matthew 5:3-11).

On the 9th day of Christmas my true love sent to me…Nine Ladies Dancing – The nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22).

On the 10th day of Christmas my true love sent to me…Ten Lords A-leaping – The Ten Commandments: You shall have no other gods before me; Do not take God’s name in vain; Keep holy the Lord’s Day; Honor your father and mother; Do not kill; Do not commit adultery; Do not steal; Do not bear false witness; Do not covet your neighbor’s wife; and Do not covet your neighbor’s goods (Exodus 20:1-17).

On the 11th day of Christmas my true love sent to me…Eleven Pipers Piping – The eleven Faithful Apostles: Simon Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James – son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, Judas – son of James (Luke 6:14-16). The list does not include the twelfth disciple, Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus to the Romans.

On the 12th day of Christmas my true love sent to me…Twelve Drummers Drumming – The Twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle’s Creed: I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth…I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord…He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary… He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead…On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father…He will come again to judge the living and the dead…I believe in the Holy Spirit…the holy catholic Church…the communion of saints…the forgiveness of sins…the resurrection of the body…and life everlasting.

Whether that was truly the intent of the author no one knows for certain…however, hopefully these words may “ring true” in our hearts as we bring our gifts – our fruits of labor and love – to our true love!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! May this season of birthing and giving life to and for Jesus enkindle the flame in our hearts and allow Jesus’ love to grow and transform us and those with whom we journey! God Bless!

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