In our continuing celebration of the feast of the nativity you should by now have received three partridges in a pear tree, four turtle doves, and three French hens. If you don’t live in an aviary this may be difficult. Apart from the fact that most people believe that Christmas is over on Christmas Day one of the more daunting tasks for preachers to try and convey is the seasons essence and the way the church attempts by scripture reading and observances to anchor the birth of Jesus in a historical reality and into a world of sin and deep darkness. Stephen the martyr is commemorated showing the hostility the orders that are meant to protect us have against the “Lord and His anointed”. Steven was killed by religious authorities. We commemorate the death of the Holy Innocents who were murdered by a corrupt King and incompetent government. From the beginning, Church and State raged against the Messiah. In the season of sweetness and light we are in the midst of death and the old cry is very apropos, “of who may we seek comfort but of thee oh Lord?”
It is said that the “12 Days of Christmas”, which is a jolly and fun song to sing, for awhile (I usually get sick of it around day 9) is really a coded message for teaching catechumens in the days when the Catholic Church and Catholic theology was banned and the Church of England rose to supremacy. It is a stretch but there are many historians who believe it too be true. First one has to make up the code, then teach it to the faithful and then what? If it is only the faithful who are meeting in secret anyway what was the point.? If it was meant to be sung in public to pervade the culture how does the code make sense? The parts of Catholic theology that were banned were the pope and the priests and the veneration of some saints. The essentials such as the 10 Commandments (Ten Lords a leaping), the Creed (12 drummers drumming), the Gospels (4 colly, and it is colly, meaning black birds), and Christ, the partridge in a pear tree were retained in the Church of England so I can’t get the point. Anyway it makes for a good story but would make more sense of the singers were captive in a Muslim country.
In all of these things a single theme develops for preachers and teachers and that is to just get folks to Look at the Gospel witness, hear the Good News and think of what history tells us about this season and fact that the whole world was moved and the Gospel for many years sped on and conquered. All we ask is that people look at the results of what Christianity moves folks to do and what mercy accomplishes in the name of Christ. Atmospheres are so poisonous today that giving a nod to Christianity results in shaming doesn’t bode well for peace on earth and good will to men. Here is a song I wrote about looking at the Christmas Story with eyes open to message of salvation.