Friday, December 19, 2014

sixth






The Sixth Day of Christmas is technically six days after Christmas.  The way the church celebrated the holiday ( moving the celebration of birth of Christ to December and then saying the Magi appeared twelve days after his birth ) – Epiphany was the “Twelfth Night” of Christmas.

Man began His time keeping on a model set by God – Seven Days in one week.  The calendar is measured in twelve months, roughly 52 of these weeks.  Christians (and Jews) used to champion a Sabbath: six days of the week were set aside for work and one was set aside to rest.  This rest day was also modeled for us by our creator – GOD rested on the seventh day.

On the SIXTH DAY of Christmas, my TRUE LOVE gave to me SIX GEESE A-LAYING.

Six Geese a-Laying represents the six days of CREATION – in Six Days God created the heavens and the earth – all that is seen and unseen.  Then, as a divine surprise, He rested.  RESTING was given to us by example- our CREATOR GOD, who never grows weary or tires, rested on the seventh day.  He blessed it, sanctified it, and made it Holy- set apart for HIM (Exodus 20:11).  So, our weeks were set up in stone:  Six days to work; one day to rest.  Six to work, one to rest.  Six to work, one to rest.  Six to work, one to rest.  It’s amazing how soon we forget the concept of a Sabbath.  Today millions of people who sing this song will not even know how to define the Sabbath.  God wants us to rest.
WHY?

The Sabbath was a good idea, but one that was lost in times of slavery, famine, war and plagues.  In truth, man (the creation of God) cannot keep the law to save his life.  We’re a damn mess.  The Holy Sabbath was a foreshadowing of a greater rest – a better rest.  It was there to whisper that something better was coming: a complete rest in the finished work of Jesus Christ.  The perfect Son of God sanctifies us and makes us holy since we can’t do it ourselves. God sanctified Jesus Christ, but in a greater way: He sent a Messiah into the world to be our sacrifice for sin (John 10:36). In Him we find complete rest.

Today, are you weary?  Are you ready to lay down all of your striving to be perfect?  We really can’t be perfect, you know…Jesus alone is our only hope for rest.  If you want to remember this, think of those six days of creation and remember  that you can now rest for good.  Put down all of your desires to be good enough for God and rest in Him, not just one day a week, but always.

On the SIXTH DAY of Christmas, my TRUE LOVE gave to me an example of striving  - and a promise of TRUE REST.  Six Geese laying all kinds of eggs!  Not only does that sound like a lot of work, it reminds me of the life I left behind!!


Thank you, Jesus!!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

fifth




The symbolic meanings in the song "The Twelve Days of Christmas" are explained by folk who love folklore and I am one of them.  Atheists and skeptical Christians alike say the idea of hidden meanings are “nothing more than hype” (a lot like the hidden meanings in Mother Goose nursery rhymes, which I also look for).  I can understand the skeptics.  Documentation of the hidden meanings did not appear in Mirth without Mischief in 1780, but since that time hymnologists and historians have given credit to the traditional belief that there is more than nonsense in the words– there is the real story of Christmas.

On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me FIVE GOLDEN RINGS (did you sing it in your head?).  At this point in the song, we slow down and make a big deal about those five golden rings.  They are a really cool gift – we prove it by slowing down, as if we’re doing this out of respect. 

But what do they mean?

According to tradition, FIVE GOLD RINGS symbolizes the first five books of the Bible – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.  Jews call this the Torah, Christians call it the Pentateuch – we both know it as “the Law”.  It is the word of God, written by Moses, given to God’s people as a guide on how to live.

Salvation comes from the Jews.  That’s right I said it… I said it loud and clear.  I can say it with confidence because Jesus said it Himself (John 4:22).  The Messiah came for the Jews – Jesus was a gift for God’s chosen people, so He was born a Jew.  He lived, ate, and celebrated with Jews; read Jewish law and embraced Jewish tradition.  He said He didn’t come to abolish the law and the prophets, but to fulfill them (Matthew 5:17). 

It was talk like this that got Him crucified. 

The Bold and beautiful (and AWESOME) statement that SALVATION came from the Jews is one that is to be revered.  It is the perfection of God – the beautiful completion of a promise.  God is a covenant God who keeps with us a covenant of love (Psalm 105:8).

As humans, we see golden rings as a sign of covenant.  My most cherished possession on this earth is my wedding ring – the sign of my covenant bond with my husband.  FIVE GOLDEN RINGS – is God’s completed promise.  The LAW fulfilled in one person.  FIVE BOOKS of the LAW – kept by the person of Jesus Christ.


Glory, Hallelujah!


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

fourth




The 12 Days of Christmas actually do have words with symbolic meanings, but they have the danger of being lost, especially if we misquote them.  On the FOURTH day of Christmas my true love gave to me – FOUR CALLING BIRDS?  

Not really.

The 1780 version (the English translation from the French) is written “FOUR COLLY BIRDS” – the common description of what we would call ordinary blackbirds – noisy, disruptive birds that are not as beautiful as they are noticeable.  Would your true love give you blackbirds (common and noisy) as a symbol of love?  Really, it doesn’t seem so romantic at all.

Legend has it that FOUR COLLY BIRDS speaks of the FOUR GOSPELS – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  These four books begin the New Testament and all tell the story of Jesus: life, death and resurrection.  Their pages are filled with eye witness accounts of tyranny, espionage, miracles, adultery, scandal, greed, poverty, crime, salvation, betrayal, and (at the very climax) the resurrection of Jesus Christ – the single event that changed the world.

It is perfect that we recognize the GOSPELS as FOUR COLLY BIRDS.  The gospel soars into our life like a stark blackbird against a crystal blue sky.  The Good News comes singing, loudly; bringing evidence that demands a verdict.  It is impossible to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ and be neutral – it requires a yes or a no.  The red pill or the blue pill….

My true love is an all-consuming fire.  He came into my life and swept me up from the wreckage that I had made of it.  Upon his dramatic rescue, He revealed Himself as truth – not a kind and gentle truth, but a truth that completely changed me and the direction my life was taking.  I am forever grateful; forever changed.

In the movie Moonstruck, Ronny declares his passionate love for Loretta, then gives her a disclaimer: “Love don't make things nice. It ruins everything! It breaks your heart; it makes things a mess!”  Anyone who has seen the truth of the Gospel knows that it is not about the false Jesus (meek and mild) – it is the TRUTH about the Christ, the Messiah who came in power and transforming love.  The Good News conveys supreme passion –God giving His ONLY SON to be a Savior us.  If we are honest, we can say that the Gospel ruins us for anything else in this world.  We know God as truth, a beautiful truth that cannot ever be denied.  Because of the truth of the GOSPEL we can never go back to how we were before.

I don’t believe in free will.  If I had a free will, I would be miles from God.  I am, at my very core, a selfish, proud woman who will do anything to get what I want.  Along came FOUR COLLY BIRDS and knocked down my life – only to have me be swept away by a benevolent lover.  I’ve never looked back.

On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me – FOUR COLLY BIRDS.  The most powerful thing I have ever read – the GOSPEL, the GOOD NEWS is available to everyone.  It comes from God and is for us – read it if you dare. 


Blessings.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

third




The Twelve Days of Christmas was originally a French carol.  Why, especially would they need a reference to “ 3 FRENCH HENS”?  Aren’t all hens in France French hens?  Why would the carol make note of an obvious distinction?

The reference to a “FRENCH HEN” (rather than an English variety of chicken) may have just been because the rhyme sounded better that way.  In the original French, the carol sang: “Trois poules françaises” – literally three French female poultry (a hen). 

The habits of French hens are very different from breed to breed.  The Crèvecoeur is the oldest of the standard-bred fowls of France – black with a beautiful plume on its head.  The Houdan has an unusual butterfly-shaped comb, and is one of few breeds to have five toes rather than the usual four. La Flèche hens look a lot like our chickens and lay very large white eggs.  Of all the French breeds of chicken, it is said that the La Flèche became the most popular around the world and therefore… the obvious choice of this referral.

Three hens stay together and work together; they sleep together and hunt food together.  Because of this, when a person buys hens they are advised to buy three at a time. 

On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me – THREE FRENCH HENS.

It is said that this referral is to FAITH, HOPE and LOVE (I Corinthians 13:13) the things that “remain” in our faith.  When all is said and done, our belief in God, our identity as sons and the core of our being boils down to faith, hope and love.  

I think of my own life – the cornerstone of my faith is Jesus Christ  - his finished work on the cross and His resurrection.  After that, what remains in me is faith, hope and love – the hens that work together and are seen together in the courtyard of my life.

If we don’t have a benefactor who gives without finding fault, we all would be in a place where we need to love more.  Our faith would be cold…nothing more than knowledge of Christ and His sacrifice.  Because of our true love we are given gifts of faith, hope and love.  We just need to open them and see what oozes out!    


On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me THREE FRENCH HENS – Faith hope and love.  

Monday, December 15, 2014

second


Photo Credit


It is a common bird, at first glance it would be called a pigeon.  The turtle dove has a habit of nesting in two – male and female.  Because of this, they have become the symbol of peace and love – even romance. 

On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me – TWO TURTLE DOVES.  The message to the listener was a different kind of peace and love – a sacrifice.

Some hymnologists say that TWO TURTLE DOVES symbolizes the Old and New Testaments .  This interpretation is probably not true is because the Old and New Testaments were accepted by early Christians as one book:  “The Bible” – the Word of God (the PEAR TREE).

It is a walk down a Biblical path that explains two turtle doves – if you walk with me it will be worth it. 

According to Jewish law, there was no forgiveness without the shedding of blood  (Hebrews 9:22).  The common people of Israel offered a “sin offering” at the temple in Jerusalem–the sacred place where Jews would make a pilgrimage once a year.  This Temple was revered as the one most sacred place on earth -  the where heaven and earth met.  When they arrived at the temple, the Jews would bring a sacrifice without spot or blemish – for the poor, it was a pair of turtle doves.  These doves were handed to the high priest for their sin and sacrificed on the holy altar where commoners were not allowed.  There was so much blood being shed in Jerusalem for sin, there were hygienic rules set up by the priests.  The performing of rituals was in the hands of the priest.  This sacrifice, this altar, this temple were all run by a small select group of people.  While most people could never even penetrate the walls to the altar, they cherished the temple, and respected the practice of sacrificing animals for their sin.  There, in Jerusalem, earth was sacred and the people believed that God would somehow descend just enough that He would accept their sacrifice. 

Fast forward to the life of Jesus.  By the time he came to earth, the practice of sacrificing animals had become very corrupt.  The Temple had manufactured their own money and opportunistic money-changers and animal sellers were inside the walls where before only the holy ones were allowed.  Jesus, upon seeing it, drove out the corruption with a whip he fashioned out of cords.  It is the one time in the New Testament where He is so zealous that people got out of His way….

One week later, Jesus carried a cross down the Via de la Rosa out to Calvary, where He was crucified.

On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me….  TWO TURTLE DOVES.

For the common people- for ALL people- a sacrifice was given for us by God.  Yes, we were given the birth of a Savior - His purpose was to be a sacrifice for us: the perfect sacrifice without spot or blemish for our sin. 

The symbol of love, peace and romance is PURE when we see it this way:
Beyond the priesthood, beyond religion, beyond humankind’s desire to touch heaven, The second day of Christmas is a reminder that Jesus is our perfect Savior - the one who came as the perfect sacrifice for us – the poor, the common, the simple.

My true love gave to me a bridge to Himself – the perfect sacrifice.  

Thank you, Jesus. 

.


Sunday, December 14, 2014

first

A partridge in a pear tree





On the first Day of Christmas my True Love gave to me – a PARTRIDGE in a PEAR TREE

The cornerstone of the Christian faith rests on two things: THE PARTRIDGE and the PEAR TREE.

The carol sung praises about the twelve days from Christmas to Epiphany and all the gifts that were bestowed by a true love.  In the original Old French, the song says these gifts were “sent” (On the first Day of Christmas my True Love sent to me).  They were given by a benefactor that was far away.  The gifts symbolized true love and affection.

There is no doubt (especially since the First day of Christmas is Christmas DAY) that the PARTRIDGE in the carol is JESUS CHRIST, the only begotten Son of God.

The PEAR TREE signifies the Holy Scriptures, a book not commonly read in the 1700’s (literacy rates were low among the common folk) but accepted as the infallible words God breathed.  It is beautiful imagery that JESUS CHRIST is the partridge (the real gift inside of a gift) hidden among the gorgeous promises of the “pear tree”. 

This carol has been sung with many, many interpretations.  Few “hymnologists” dispute the significance of the first day’s gift.  Jesus Christ and the Scriptures are the cornerstone of our foundation – on which the faith of a Christian is built.

Ever notice how the pear tree (alive but firmly rooted before it bears fruit) is home to a bird that normally nests in the ground?  Jesus Christ came as a gift to us from our true love – He broke the boundaries of life and love, transcending heaven and earth.


The first and most important gift of Christmas is a gift within a gift.  

Thanks be to God!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

origins

Twelve Days of Christmas Pictoral

There are a lot of teachings about Christmas Carols.  Some of them are so good that I want to believe them – but I can’t.  I am and I am a seeker of truth, which is a force as powerful as it is beautiful.   

My favorite mythical explanation is about “The Twelve Days of Christmas”.  Storytellers allege that it began as a code, a secret catechism of sorts, sung to teach children in the late middle ages by Catholics in England (after Parliament emancipated the Catholics).  Since they were prohibited to practice their faith, the ever-musical church invented the lyrics to teach children the foundations of their faith they were forbidden to discuss openly.

It’s a heartwarming story, but I have found no supporting history of this.  Instead, I found that this misnomer was begun (at the earliest) in the 1980’s – and in America.  I think the story of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” was mistaken for another carol, one called “A New Dial” taught to children around the same historical period, using a clock as a model (An almanac from 1625, in the Bagford Collection, contains the song "A New Dial"  already quite old when the almanac was printed).  Since TWELVE is a number that signifies Biblical completion -and speaks of perfect, balanced government-  it makes sense that the songs were mistaken for each other.  They were sung by the same people in the same country... Weren't they?


In truth, Christmas carols such as The Twelve Days of Christmas DO speak of Christ – and of God’s incredible heart to give to His people.  This particular song has been sung through years of drought, famine, plagues, and the crusades.  Their lyrics were designed to intrigue people when the majority of the population could not read (Christianity was not forbidden, but Bible reading was not the norm).   As much as they were celebratory, Christmas carols were evangelical in nature.


From my research, this is what I know about the carol that we have grown to love as a people – and still don’t know very well:

What we do know is that the Twelve Days of Christmas is that it signifies the TWELVE DAYS between the celebration of birth of Christ (December 25) and when the Catholic church celebrates the coming of the Magi (Epiphany, January 6). 

The song’s earliest printed version was in the 1780 children's book Mirth Without Mischief .  "The Twelve Days of Christmas" was originally printed in French (which makes sense since the partridge wasn’t brought into England until the late 1770’s).   


It is sung about a one-way love-affair.  The joyful caroler sings: “On the first Day of Christmas my TRUE LOVE gave to me…”  There is never a “and I gave to Him…”

We see from the very beginning that God’s love to us is what defines our holiday – our receiving was a surprise.  The benevolent giver was “my true love” – sung by both men and women.


Christians were taught to use this term carefully – because it was reserved for God.  The early church wouldn’t even say His name outside of prayer (it was considered reckless or even blasphemous) – but they confessed that their HEAVENLY FATHER was their true love.

Tomorrow, I’ll begin the song.  It will count-down to Christmas, rather than Epiphany.  It will hopefully be as delightful as it is evangelical.