As Published, December 17, 2017, Appleton Post Crescent
“Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat-please put a penny in the old man’s hat.” Christmas is coming whether you like it or not. No matter who is getting fat, in one week we will celebrate the biggest holiday in our western culture. No matter our faith background, or where we stand on Christmas philosophically or theologically, Christmas was originally established to celebrate the birth of Christ. As we prepare for Christmas, perhaps we can dig a little deeper to discover what Christmas really means to each of us.
Looking for the true meaning of Christ’s birth for myself, I recently scanned the mall watching for signs of “good tidings of comfort and joy”. What I found was less “joy to the world” and more “Santa got run over by a reindeer.” Out of hundreds of people frantically rushing, pushing, yelling, and hunting, hoping to cram some meaning into their Christmas season, I encountered only one man who understood “It was beginning to look a lot like Christmas.”
Bell in hand, this aged veteran greeted me cheerfully, genuinely grateful for my donation. “Merry Christmas to you-enjoy the most wonderful time of the year,” he said with warmth and peace.
His simple words prompted me to dig deeper into my own heart. My deepest longings and heart cravings cry out to the God who loves me. It seems like His birthday should be an easy time to connect with the Savior of Christmas. My heart longs to align with “the three kings who traveled afar” overcoming great obstacles just for a chance to worship the newborn King. If I’m honest, even though Jesus is the reason for the season, I often lose Him amidst holiday stress and superficial chaos leaving my empty heart longing for more.
While traditions, decorations, food, presents, concerts, and family gatherings bring meaning to Christmas, perhaps as Dr. Seuss’s Grinch asked, “What if Christmas is a little bit more?”
My husband’s family has a tradition of singing a raucous and hilarious rendition of the “Twelve Days of Christmas” to wrap up the holiday gathering. What if the words to this silly song are exactly the little bit more we seek? For me, they turn my heart towards the One who deserves my attention this Christmas season.
Whether intended as funny, serious, reverent, or coincidental, controversy does surround the odd song lyrics urging us to uncover its meaning. Originally published in 17th century France, many believe the carol was a Twelfth Night Party game much like our game of telephone where people repeat the verses until someone makes a mistake. Folklore claims the song was written as a catechism of faith during the late 1500’s for persecuted Catholics unable to worship publicly. While not substantiated, it is possible because The New Dial, a song published in the Bagford Almanac in England in 1625, rings very close to our beloved Twelve Days of Christmas. That ancient song teaches of 12 days marking the feasts between the celebration of Christ’s birth and the Magi’s arrival. It undoubtedly speaks of the love God had for His people when He sent His Son Jesus as a baby to dwell among us as God’s ultimate gift to mankind.
If The Twelve Days of Christmas illustrates the love story of Christ and the Grinch himself can find the truth of the Christmas Spirit by searching for just a little bit more, perhaps we can too. Happy Christmas to all and to all a good night.