Tuesday, December 26, 2006
twelve days of christmas (christmas just started!)
I didn't think that I would post again before going on vacation, but there is something that I want to highlight, especially for people who have not been raised in a liturgically based denomination. Christmas is not a day. It is a season just like Easter, Lent, and Advent. As a season, Christmas lasts twelve days and ends when the magi, bringing their gifts, appear to the Christ child - Epiphany. So, when we sing about the twelve days of Christmas, we are singing about the days after Christmas, not the days before.
Even more little known among people is Twelfth Night, which falls on January 5, the day before Epiphany. Twelfth Night is a great time for feasting, celebrating the King of kings and looking ahead to the joy of Epiphany, which arrives the next day. Feasting on Twelfth Night is both an English and a French custom, which includes eating a King's Cake. Some have also reserved the King's Cake for Epiphany; both customs are traditional (FYI, King's Cake is part of Mardi Gras in the USA...this is where the custom comes from).
Remember, Christmas has not ended; it has just begun. For each of the twelve days of Christmas, we are invited to experience the miracle of the heavens and the earth co-existing in new and unimaginable ways. Many Christians, especially progressive Christians, have spent such a great deal of time demythologizing our faith that we have lost the mystery and miracle of our story. It is possible to separate myth, legend, and fable from fact and still hold to the truths of our myths, legends, and fables. The truth of our story doesn't reside in its factual accuracy; it resides in the ageless truth that life is stronger than death, that our worth doesn't arise from our birth or cultural position but out of God's grace, that God's deepest desire is for shalom - peace. Christmas has come. Let's not pack it away unmindfully, too quickly. Advent invited us to prepare for these twelve days. Let's enjoy them and marvel at how the heavens crashed into the earth, and the Prince of Peace struggled into the world amid the violence and greed of politics, amid the mess and stink of poverty, amid the scandal of his parentage, and amid the condition of humankind.
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