This month.....

Christmas 2020 people seemed to decorate their homes earlier than ever. We’re always later putting our decorations up (much to the vexation of our children, even now when they are adults!)  but we leave them up until the twelfth night, Epiphany on the 6th January.

The ancient celebration of Epiphany marks the visit from the three Kings. Epiphany comes from Greek and means manifestation. It has been celebrated in Europe since the 4th century. In the Gospel of Matthew, we find the story of the Three Kings following a star to Bethlehem bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to give to baby Jesus.

This year we received a few Christmas cards with the twelve days of Christmas on and it made me start to think about that famous Christmas song that represents The Twelve days of Christmas. It is often thought of as a fun nonsensical part of the Christmas season, however according to legend it’s about a song used by Christian parents in the 16th century to teach their children secretly about the Christian faith. Each symbol has a specific meaning to teach one part of the Christian faith. And whether or not this is historically accurate, I love the idea that the song can be used in this fashion quite easily!

The first day of Christmas - A Partridge in a Pear Tree refers to Jesus.

The second day of Christmas - Two Turtle Doves represents the Old and New Testaments.

The Third day of Christmas - Three French Hens (now there are two versions of what the hens stand for) it’s either the three gifts the Three Kings brought or the three virtues of Faith, Hope and Love that the Apostle Paul writes about in 1 Corinthians.

The Fourth Day of Christmas - Four Calling Birds represents the four gospels calling people to Christ

The Fifth Day of Christmas - Five Gold Rings represent the Torah (which Christians call the Pentateuch, the first books of the Bible giving a rich history of God’s people.

The Sixth Day of Christmas - Six Geese A-Laying represent the six days of Creation

The Seventh Day of Christmas - Seven Swans A-Swimming tell of the seven gifts the Holy Spirit gives: prophecy, service, teaching, exhortation, giving, leading and compassion.

The Eighth Day of Christmas - Eight Maids A-Milking the eight Beatitudes Jesus preached in Matthew’s Gospel telling us how to live a good life and find our eternal rest with God.

The Ninth Day of Christmas - Nine Ladies Dancing represents the nine fruits of the spirit that distinguishes the character of a follower of Christ love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

The Tenth Day of Christmas - Ten Lords A Leaping represents the Ten Commandments God gave his people to follow.

The Eleventh Day of Christmas - Eleven Pipers Piping these represent the eleven apostles who remained faithful to Jesus: Simon Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James.

The Twelfth Day of Christmas – Twelve drummers drumming, is the Apostles Creed one of the most widely accepted creeds with the twelve points of doctrine that outline what Christians believe.

And My True Love refers to God Himself, the giver of all good gifts.

There are many different stories around the creation of this sung and this is just one version. Whatever the reason for the song being written and sung it helps us to remember that there are twelve days of Christmas and it doesn’t end on Boxing Day. We can enjoy the peace and joy of the Christmas season until 6th January.

However, you have spent your time this Christmas, my prayer is that the light of hope comes to each and every person of our communities: that 2021 is a better year; that all the uncertainty that we have lived with over the last nine months has made us stop and think about what really is important in life and we are better people and live in more connected communities as a result. That way, despite the uncertainty good things will come out of 2020. I wish you all a happy and healthy new year!

With blessings

Revd Joanna