Merry Christmas! What an incredible season of joy, peace and celebration. I love how theologically dense Christmas is. There are so many different moments for contemplation and deep reflection – the Incarnation, Mary’s fiat, the gifts of the wise men, the flight into Egypt — to only name a few. Many of the songs we sing are imbued with the tenets of our faith — even some of the seemingly secular ones. Take The 12 Days of Christmas (today is day 3, in case the title wasn’t enough of a hint).
While many parents today may cringe when their 5- or 6-year old discovers this English carol and insists on singing the same 3 verses over and over again because that’s the only section they remember (possibly speaking from experience), this traditional English carol has the potential to be bursting with theological significance.
We don’t know the exact origins of this song, and some stories are more colorful than others. Be that as it may, the song can serve as a good way to focus our thoughts during the 12 days that follow Christmas. I don’t know about you, but after all the hype, hustle and bustle that leads up to Christmas, it can be hard to carry that joy and thanksgiving forward through the actual Christmas season. So, here is a song which can help us focus our energy, offering thanks for a specific element of our faith, all which is made possible through the birth of Jesus at Christmas. I’ve added my own short prayer of thanksgiving which you can use each day as the springboard for your own daily prayer.
The 12 Days of Christmas
On the ___ day of Christmas my true love gave to me…
- Starting with the true love who gives the gifts = God. Each of these good things comes to us from our heavenly Father. Every day is a gift and blessing for our enjoyment and relationship with God.
First Day … Partridge in a Pear Tree (Christmas Day)
- The partridge represents Christ. In the face of an enemy, mother partridge’s are known to feign an injury to draw the predator away from their young. They sacrifice themselves for their children, just as Jesus sacrificed Himself for our salvation.
Dear Jesus, thank you for the gift of yourself, as an infant and on the Cross. Thank you for the gift of salvation and it’s promise of life everlasting. Amen.
Second Day … Two Turtledoves
- Typically the two turtledoves represent the Old and New Testaments. They can also represent the Incarnation – Jesus fully God and fully man.
Dear Jesus, what an incredible mystery the Incarnation is! Even though I can never fully understand the depth of your humanity and divinity, I am thankful that your generosity knows no bounds. You not only gave us yourself, you have also revealed yourself to us in Scripture and continue to use it to enlighten the world. Amen
Third Day … Three French Hens
- The three French hens can represent either the three theological virtues — faith, hope and love, or the Blessed Trinity — God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
Dear Lord, thank you for revealing to me the mystery of the Blessed Trinity. You show me how to live in perfect union and community with one another, how to love one another. Amen
Fourth Day … Four Calling Birds
- The four calling birds represent the four Gospel writers, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
Thank you, Lord, for inspiring the Gospel writers to leave us an account of Jesus’ time on earth. Each time I read the stories of Jesus I am inspired, filled with love and mercy. Amen
Fifth Day … Five Golden Rings
- The five golden rings represent the first five books of the bible, also known as the Pentateuch. These books tell the story of how God made the world, how and why humans failed and fell into sin and share the promise of the Savior.
Dear Lord, thank you for the gift of the Pentateuch. These stories reveal to me the reality of human nature and my utter dependence on You. Amen
Sixth Day … Six Geese a-Laying
- The six geese represent the six days God took to create the world.
Dear Lord, thank you for this wondrous world you have created for me! How marvelous your creations, how beautiful the sights and sounds all around me. Thank you Lord especially for creating those I love. Thank you for creating me. Amen
Seventh Day … Seven Swans a-Swimming
- The seven swans represent the seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit. They are wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, fortitude, piety and fear of the Lord.
Dear Holy Spirit, thank you for showering me with your gifts. Each day you provide me opportunities to grow in your gifts. Thank you for your overabundant love and generosity. Amen
Eighth Day … Eight Maids a-Milking
- The eight maids represent the eight Beatitudes.
Lord Jesus, thank you for your teachings, the Beatitudes. These attitudes give me guidance and wisdom for how I am to live in relationship with others and with creation. Thank you for challenging me to reform my ways of thinking and acting so that I can grow in holiness. Amen
Ninth Day … Nine Ladies Dancing
- Nine is tricky. Typically, we recognize 12 fruits of the Holy Spirit. However, since some are similar, they can be grouped together for so that the nine ladies dancing can represent nine fruits of the Holy Spirit. Here’s how they can be combined: Charity [Generosity], Joy, Peace, Patience, Goodness [Kindness], Gentleness, Faithfulness, Modesty, Self-Control [Chastity].
- Nine can also be for nine days of a novena.
Dear Holy Spirit, thank you for allowing your fruits to flourish in my life. Each day is full of promise and new growth. Thank you for guiding me along the paths of goodness and truth as the fruits of your Spirit grow in me. Amen
Tenth Day … Ten Lords a-Leaping
- The ten lords represent the Ten Commandments
Thank you, Lord, for the gift of the Ten Commandments. I know that these rules provide me the framework for living a holy, purposeful life. Amen
Eleventh Day … Eleven Pipers Piping
- The eleven pipers represent the eleven faithful Apostles: Peter, Andrew, James (called the Greater), James (called the Less), John, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, Simon, Jude.
Dear Lord, thank you for the example of these holy men. Thank you for filling them with courage and conviction to testify to all that they witnessed and that you revealed to them. Amen
Twelfth Day … Twelve Drummers Drumming
- The twelve drummers represent the twelve points of faith in the Apostle’s Creed.
Dear Jesus, thank you for our Church. I am proud to be a son/daughter of your Church and I marvel at the long history which I am a part of. Thank you for all the holy men and women who through the ages have listened to your voice and helped shape and guide the Church to today. Amen
Copyright Kate Taliaferro 2017