Thursday, December 22, 2016

Birthday month.... "a partridge in a pear tree"

Well, at my house Karen, my wife, started a tradition of celebrating "birthday month...." this means that when your birthday falls in that month... we celebrate it the whole month...  No, not a party or a gift every day...(that would be nice), but besides just calling it "your birthday month," the celebrant gets to make special choices, get extra privileges and common affirmations and celebrating moments...  So, I got to thinking... Jesus' birthday should be a birthday month celebration too..., well it has been for a long time, but as you know, many extra things have been added that may have just taken away the meaning intended...  Traditionally, Christians begin four Sundays before Christmas with the Advent.  The excitement builds each week, and then on December 25th, Christmas is over, stopping abruptly and people go back to living their normal lives.  That just does not sit right with me... there are more days in December.  This crazy thought I was having was further expanded and supported when I saw a drama where one of the "Wise men" shared that the manger scenes really should put the Magi on the other side of the room rather than in the manger scene itself..., reminding me that they were not at the stable, but arrived years later after a long journey... .so how can I meaningfully extend Christmas a few weeks at least..?

So I began thinking about this, doing a little research... I ran across a very familiar song that has historical meaning most may not be aware of.  "The Twelve Days of Christmas"  is actually a celebration that begins on December 25 and ends January 6 with the feast of the Epiphany (which is the celebration of the revealing of Christ to the gentiles in the persons of the Magi).  This may be a way to reflect on the incarnation/birth of Christ at Christmas, and then how this should impact our lives.

Historically, in the fifth century church, in the Catholic tradition, there were three parts of the ministry that were practiced right after Christmas day.  December 26 the feast of St. Stephen (the deacon) (a day to give leftovers to the poor), December 27 was the feast of St. John (a day to celebrate the relationship we now have with Christ). and December 28 the Feast of the Holy Innocents (a day to remember all who suffer for their faith, beginning with the children murdered by Herod, victims of abortion, war, martyred for their faith, etc).   I discovered a few other traditions woven into these days following Christmas... something to think about.

Granted, the medieval church frowned on many of these traditional practice's and the reformers finished the job of suppressing them.. as maybe their importance did become overtly systematic... but a devotional, reflective reminder of what they celebrate makes for good contemplation.

In addition, interestingly, the song itself, at its origin, was to preserve many of the truths of scripture with children during a time of persecution, also has symbolic meaning.... The "True Love" referred to in the song, while singers believe this to be a smitten boy or girl, is really Jesus Christ, because truly love was born on Christmas Day.  The partridge in the pear tree also refers to Him, as a partridge by characteristic, often sacrifices itself or feign injury, drawing away a prey to protect its young.  Furthermore, two turtle doves were the Old and New Testament, Three French hens stood for faith, hope and love. Four calling birds were the four gospels Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  The five golden rings represented the first five books of the Old Testament which describes man's fall into sin and the great love of God in sending a Savior.  The six geese a laying stood for the six days of creation. Seven swans a swimming represented the seven-fold gifts of ministry: preaching, serving, teaching, exhortation, giving, leadership and mercy. The eight maids a-milking were the eight beatitudes. Nine ladies dancing were the nine gifts of the spirit, ten lords a-leaping were the Ten Commandments.  The eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven faithful Apostles and the twelve drummers drumming symbolized the twelve points of the Apostles Creed.

We always say the spirit of Christmas is a year round practice... But I think we can easily declare that December is Jesus' birthday month... and... I am going to try to extend the celebration in my own heart beyond Christmas Day a few weeks.... and yes, more enthusiastically into my every day life beyond that.