Modern tradition has us following the schedule set by retail merchants, instead of old church tradition. Have you noticed that? If left to the secular schedule, everything we do centers around decorating and buying presents from the beginning of October through December 24th. We get the 25th off to spend time at home and rest up for all those after-Christmas sales that keep us hopping and retailers' merchandise liquidating until the beginning of the new year.
Not that there's anything wrong with a good after-Christmas sale, mind you. Taking advantage of the discounted decorations and paper products and seasonal gifts gives us a head start on next year's celebration and also helps us be good stewards of the resources with which the Lord has blessed us.
But let's not jump on the world's little wagon and forget that this is our season to celebrate. The Savior HAS come. He was here on earth in the flesh. He did what the Father said He was going to do. He paid the price in every way for all the things in us that fall short of His perfection. Once and for all.
That's where the "Twelve Days of Christmas" carol serves as a great reminder of the continuing sacred aspects of the season. Here's a quick run-down of what tradition (albeit debatable) holds to be the deeper meaning of each gift given on each day.
On the ____ day of Christmas my true love gave to me...
1st ... a partridge in a pear tree ... Jesus! We celebrate His birthday on Christmas Day.
2nd ... two turtle doves ... the Old and New Testaments which reflect the love of the Father for His people
3rd ... three french hens ... the three virtues of faith, hope and love (I Corinthians 13:13)
4th ... four calling birds ... the four gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John which proclaim the Good News of Jesus to the world
5th ... five gold rings ... the books of the Torah (or Pentateuch) ... Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy
6th ... six geese a-laying ... the six days of creation
7th ... seven swans a-swimming ... the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit .. prophecy, service, teaching, exhortation, giving, leadership, mercy (Romans 12:6-8)
8th ... eight maids a-milking ... the Beatitudes ... Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, those who are persecuted (Matthew 5:3-10)
9th ... nine ladies dancing ... the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23)
10th ... ten lords a-leaping ... the Ten Commandments ... no other gods before me; do not make idols; do not take the Lord's name in vain; remember the Sabbath to keep it holy; honor you father and mother; do not murder; do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not bear false witness; do not covet (Exodus 20:1-17)
11th ... eleven pipers piping ... the eleven faithful apostles: Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, Judas the son of James (Luke 6:14-16)
12th ... twelve drummers drumming ... the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostles' Creed (which vary in different versions):
I BELIEVE in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth: And in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy catholic church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.
And the biggest blessing of all? These gifts come from our True Love!
Twelve Days of Christmas devotionals
Twelve Days of Christmas coloring sheets for kids
Twelve Days of Christmas, the song