Over the past few weeks did you sing “The Twelve Days of Christmas” or hear it as many times as I did? I have always believed that this song leads us up to the 12 days before Christmas. But, after a little study I found that The 12 days of Christmas originally began on Christmas day and ended on January 5. This time is known as the Season of Christmas.
The Christmas season begins with the celebration of Jesus’ birth on Christmas Day. The feast of Christmas lasts 12 days, until Epiphany. Christmas is a season of thankfulness for Christ’s first coming to provide salvation. The Christmas Season ends with the Magi or the 3 Wise Men coming to bring gifts to Jesus. This is also called Epiphany.
On Friday November 27, 2020 we began our Bible Journal Advent writings. I learned much about the anticipation and arrival of our Messiah. But, today, the day after Christmas, we wake up and the advent season is over. The anticipation and preparation is over. For some there is a let down, a feeling that it is all over. But, what really happens now?
I have been fascinated learning of Advent and that stirred in me to learn more about the Church Seasons or the Liturgical Calendar. Because of the New Testament we have freedom in Christ and are not bound or required to observe the different church seasons. But at the same time, we have the freedom to learn about these Church traditions and follow them if we like. I found that in following Advent, it drew me closer to God and the anticipation of His son at Christmas. So what now? Advent is over and what happens now?
As we celebrate the Christmas Season we can reflect on the meaning of the 12 days through the song, The 12 Days of Christmas. Here are the meanings that accompany each verse:
On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me…a partridge in a pear tree.
The partridge in a pear tree represents Jesus, the Son of God, whose birthday we celebrate on the first day of Christmas. Christ is symbolically presented as a mother partridge, the only bird that will die to protect its young.
On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me…two turtle doves.
These two birds represent the Old and New Testaments. They represent God’s road map that is available to everyone.
On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me…three french hens.
These birds represent faith, hope, and love. 1 Corinthians 13
On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me…four calling birds.
These four birds are the four Gospels- Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me…five gold rings.
The gift of the rings represents the first five books of the Old Testament, known as the Torah or the Pentateuch.
On the sixth day of Christmas my true love gave to me…six geese a laying.
Each egg represents a day in creation from the book of Genesis.
On the seventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me…seven swans a swimming.
The swans represent the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: prophecy, ministry, teaching, exhortation, giving, leading, and compassion. As swans are one of the most beautiful and graceful creatures, they seem to be a perfect symbol for the spiritual gifts.
On the eighth day of Christmas my true love gave to me…eight maids a milking.
Being a milkmaid was one of the lowest jobs of its time. This verse conveys that Jesus cared about his servants as he did those of royal blood. The eight who were blessed included 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.
On the ninth day of Christmas my true love gave to me…nine ladies dancing.
These are the gifts of the fruit of the Spirit. The fruits are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
On the tenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me…ten lords a-leaping.
As lords were judges and in charge of the law, this represents the Ten Commandments.
On the eleventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me…eleven pipers piping.
Most think of the disciples as twelve, but when Judas betrayed Jesus and committed suicide, there were only eleven men who carried out the gospel message.
On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me…twelve drummers drumming.
The drummers are the twelve points of the Apostles’ Creed. “I believe inJesus 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 into hell. 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 int the holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting.”
So as we sing or hear this silly song we can now realize that it has reminders of the essential elements of our faith. As Christmas has become more materialized and lost its real meaning to many, these 12 days originally connected believers to the whole story of Gods plan. The verses in this song enhance the meaning of Christmas for each one of us. For the next 12 days we can focus one verse each day and reflect on what God is teaching us.