The 12 Days Of Christmas
The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree: the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other.
I remember always wondering if there was more to the wonderful Christmas song “The 12 Days of Christmas” than meets the eye. After all, it was music from a heavenly choir, that heralded the birth of the Christ Child all those years ago, which is why, perhaps, we associate the joy of songs with this time!
Now, “The 12 Days of Christmas” could never be thought of as a hymn in the traditional sense of the word. And yet, the lyrics capture the spirit of the love that blankets the world during this season. So I was thrilled when a friend once shared something with me about this song, and I, in turn, choose to share it with you.
My friend, the Rev. Michael Weissman wrote of something rather extraordinary about a beloved Christmas song that I’m betting most of you have not heard. I certainly was not aware of this interesting claim, but I certainly feel it is important enough to share as a blog with you all. So here’s what he wrote and I have expanded on slightly courtesy of Christine Nyholm.
Rev. Michael Weissman
This week, I found out. From 1558 until 1829, Roman Catholics in England were not permitted to practice their faith openly. Someone during that era wrote this carol as a catechism song for young Catholics. It has two levels of meaning: the surface meaning plus a hidden meaning known only to members of their church. Each element in the carol has a code word for a religious reality which the children could remember.
On the First Day of Christmas my true love gave to me a partridge in a pear tree – The partridge is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. ‘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 Second Day of Christmas my true love gave to me two turtle doves – The two doves represent the Old and New Testaments of the Bible.
On the Third Day of Christmas my true love gave to me three French hens – The three French Hens represents the three theological virtues, faith, hope and love. (1 Corinthians 13:13)
On the Fourth Day of Christmas my true love gave to me four calling birds. The four calling birds are the Four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in the Bible. The Holy Gospels proclaim the Good News of God’s reconciliation to the world in Jesus Christ.
On the Fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me five gold rings. The five golden rings are the first five books of the Old Testament, known as the Torah or Pentateuch. The five books are Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.
On the Sixth day of Christmas my true love gave to me six geese a-laying. The six geese are the six days of creation described in Genesis 1.
On the Seventh Day of Christmas my true love gave to me seven swans a swimming. The seven swans are the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: prophecy, ministry, teaching, exhortation, giving, leading and compassion. (Romans 12:6-8; Corinthians 12:8-11).
On the Eighth Day of Christmas my true love gave to me eight maids a-milking. The eight Beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-10.
- Blessed are the poor in spirit.
- Blessed are those who mourn.
- Blessed are the meek.
- Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.
- Blessed are the merciful.
- Blessed are the pure in heart.
- Blessed are the peacemakers.
- Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.
On the Ninth Day of Christmas my true love gave to me nine ladies dancing. The nine ladies are the fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians:5:22)
On the Tenth Day of Christmas my true love gave to me ten Lords a-leaping. The ten Lords are the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:1-17.
- You shall have no other gods before me.
- Do not make an idol.
- Do not take the Lord’s name in vain.
- Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy.
- Honor your father and mother.
- Do not murder.
- Do not commit adultery.
- Do not steal.
- Do not bear false witness.
- Do not covet.
On the Eleventh Day of Christmas my true love gave to me eleven pipers piping. The eleven pipers are the eleven faithful Apostles, including: Simon Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James bar Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, Judas bar James. (Luke 6:14-16). This list excludes the twelfth Apostle, Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus.
On the Twelfth Day of Christmas my true love gave to me twelve drummers drumming. The twelve drummers are the twelve points of the doctrine in the Apostles’ 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 into Hell.
- On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right had of the Father.
- He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
- I believe in the Holy Spirit.
- the Holy catholic (Christian) Church.
- the communion of saints,
- the forgiveness of sins,
- the resurrection of the body,
- And life everlasting.
The Traditional Twelve Days of Christmas begin on Christmas Day and last until the epiphany on January 6.
Now as an aside, “Snopes” says this is not necessarily true as the report seems to date only to the 1990’s. They also say that no supporting evidence exists to prove the accuracy of this claim. However, as I see it, there is no supporting evidence to support the tenets of faith either and yet they exist, and flourish to this day. And, I for one like this explanation! Doesn’t reading about a hidden meaning behind the words, somehow make them even more profound and most certainly more endearing? And this is something that I can cling to and think about as I sing this wonderful song! Yes, I believe this story! Do you?
“When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.”
Matthew 2: 10-12 NIV
And what a difference between our sin and God’s generous gift of forgiveness. For this one man, Adam, brought death to many through his sin. But this other man, Jesus Christ, brought forgiveness to many through God’s bountiful gift. And the result of God’s gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man’s sin. For Adam’s sin led to condemnation, but we have the free gift of being accepted by God, even though we are guilty of many sins. The sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over us, but all who receive God’s wonderful, gracious gift of righteousness will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.”
Romans 5:15-17 NLT
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