Pastor Chris Tweitmann
For many, after December 25th, things go back to business as usual. But not in the Church. In the tradition of the Christian faith, there are 12 days of Christmas. Why, you may ask?
Well, contrary to how many Nativity scenes portray it and even some books and movies tell the story, the Magi, the arrival of the wise men, didn’t happen on Christmas Day. Nope. Remember, the famed star they followed only first appeared in the sky on the night Jesus was born. Their journey began, perhaps, on the day of the birth of Christ. Their arrival to Bethlehem was much, much later on. Hence, the 12 days of Christmas, commemorating the period of time between the arrival of the Word made flesh and the coming of the Magi.
Since we’re still celebrating Christmas, we are continuing to look at some of the beloved carols of the season. We’re allowing these treasured songs to be windows – windows through which their familiar lines and melodies helps us to better perceive biblical truths. As we learn about their origins as well as the specific scriptures which inspired them, let us reflect more deeply upon the meaning of the story we sing about and why the Gospel of Jesus Christ is indeed, good news.
Now, given what I’ve explained so far, you might think we’d be spending this Sunday exploring that relentlessly stuck-in-your-head Christmas carol which talks about the 12 days of Christmas.
But you’d be wrong. Instead we will focus on one of the oldest, most often misunderstood Christmas songs in the collection.
Both tune and words of this carol are anonymous. There is record of this song having its origins among the 16th-century bands that travelled round London singing in taverns. Some insist this carol was being crooned as early as the 15th century. This we know for sure, it was first put to print and widely distributed much later in the early 19th century. William B. Sandy included a version of this song in his 1833 publication Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern. Soon after this catchy little tune began to pop up in various church hymnals and carol books. Once Charles Dickens included it in his famous novel A Christmas Carol, the song became a classic, a staple of the holiday season,
Do you know what it is yet? No, Googling. That’s cheating!
I will, however, leave you with these final clues.
Despite its continued popularity, the evolution of the English language has left much of the significance and meaning of the song’s title and lyrics beyond our contemporary understanding. However, as we’ll discover, if we put the song’s title into our modern-day vocabulary, adjusting for both grammar and punctuation, we have a carol that doesn’t shy away from stating the high spiritual stakes of Christmas. In no uncertain terms, this song asserts, if not for the birth, the coming of Christ, humanity would have been lost.
So, come join us this Sunday as a new year, 2019, is upon us. The day of Christmas may be over, but our celebration of the gift of the Incarnation, continues. Our Savior has come. God is with us and for us in the birth of Jesus. Unlike our observance of Christmas which is put away year after year, the reality of Christmas continues to unfold, reaching out and transforming lives one by one, until eventually, every knee shall bow and every heart confess that Christ is Lord.