Hi, there! As I’ve been praying, thinking and looking for guidance about the 2016 Bible verse a day readings, Christmas tidings, songs and decorations surrounded me.
At the same time I’m highly aware of national and world news especially the persecution of the Christians. I even see the ridicule and (closet) oppression of Christian beliefs here in the US – the world’s epicenter of religious freedom.
Add to those thoughts, I was lead to a Christmas song “The 12 Days of Christmas.” My mind immediately went to making a quilt using that theme. Then, I realized that I don’t even like that song. I’ve never understood it. Really? Maids a Milking? Or, better yet: Lords a Leaping? What in the world do leaping lords, French hens, swimming swans, and especially the partridge who won't come out of the pear tree have to do with Christmas?
And, lastly, my kids + grands are gathering here over the New Year's weekend (scheduling is a feat!) We are still rejoicing. And why don't we, you and me, and as a group Rejoice all year long as is told to us in 1 Thessalonians 5:16. It says to Rejoice always....rejoice evermore.
So, because I’m a Googler, I was astonished by what I found when I searched for the history of the 12 Days of Christmas?
Did you know? (Hang with me, please!)
Back in the 1500’s, when that infamous King Henry VIII wanted to have his marriage with Catherine annulled (after multiple pregnancies, miscarriages and the death of a baby) the Pope denied the request. Henry in his spoiled petulance separated England from Catholicism and made himself the “Supreme Head of the Church of England”.
The world went darker and darker. Priests were exiled and threatened with their lives---yes they faced Death--- if they performed Mass, sacraments, communion and baptisms.
He dissolved and disbanded all Catholic monasteries, convents, etc. in England, Wales and Ireland…looting their assets and incomes. The 900 houses (friaries, nunneries, etc.) were closed and he directly displaced and negatively impacted about 12,000 people. In those days, that was a significant percentage of the population! Religious oppression and religious persecution was the reality.
So, what would You do if your religion was suddenly eliminated by a King on a belligerent whim?
Because they were forbidden to practice their faith---by royal decree---many died. Wealthy families built hiding places for the priests in case the “Secret Police” came to search. (Does this remind you of Underground Railroad? Or of Anne Frank?) There is a story of one priest hidden in behind a fireplace was and roasting to death. And, this oppression was widespread.
Guess what happens when people are oppressed? They find ways around the oppression…like developing a secret code, a way to communicate without being understood. (Think signs along the path to the north for the run-away slaves. Even kids do this: Pig Latin is another example.)
Well, the followers of Christ created a song ---in Code. Yes, it is the Twelve Days of Christmas! The verses were, on the surface, a simple reflection of the times: Lords, Hens, Geese, Swans, Maids, Pipers, dancing, swimming, milking, laying, drumming, etc.
On a deeper, spiritual reverent level each verse represented a valuable tenet of Christians everywhere.
1. On the first day of Christmas, My True love gave to me a partridge in a pear tree. The symbolism: My True Love =God; Gave to Me=Each of us Individually; A Partridge=Jesus Christ; In a Pear Tree = wood for the Cross.
2. Two turtledoves were said to be the Old and New Testaments and the 2 natures of Jesus: Divine and Human
3. Three French hens stood for Father, Son & Holy Ghost; faith, hope and love, Died, Buried and Arisen.
4. The four calling birds were the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John.
5. The five golden rings recalled the Law which the first five books of the Old Testament.
6. The six geese a-laying stood for the six days of creation.
7. Seven swans a-swimming represented the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit-Prophesy, Serving, Teaching, Exhortation, Contribution, Leadership, and Mercy.
8. The eight maids a-milking were the eight beatitudes.
9. Nine ladies dancing were the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit-Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self Control.
10. The ten lords a-leaping were the Ten Commandments and tithing.
11. The eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven faithful disciples.
12. The twelve drummers drumming symbolized the twelve points of belief in The Apostles' Creed.
So here’s my suggestion: Let’s do a FULL year…and use one line of the song each month. For January, the theme will be “On the first day of Christmas, My True love gave to me a partridge in a pear tree.”
The verses will be both New and Old Testament and are related to the love God has for us, the love Jesus taught and showed us. As we move into the cold winter, let’s be reminded and rejoice in how much we are loved.