Friday, December 25, 2009

The First Day of Christmas

Today is December 25, the First Day of Christmas.  It is properly called the Feast Day of the Nativity.  The seasons stretches from the celebration of the birth of Christ to the arrival of the Magi on Epiphany (January 6).  Historians argue about why Christmas is 12 days, some arguing the perfection of the number "12" and others proposing that it is a Christianized version of a 12 day pagan holiday pre-dating Christianity.  The days that follow December 25 speak to several themes in the daily readings as the Church encourages us to remember the Incarnation of God.  In this year's cycle in the Protestant lectionary there is also an emphasis on the childhood of Jesus, which is rather scant in the New Testament.
Perhaps the most famous and misunderstood song that outlines the 12 days of Christmas is, well, the song The Twelve Days of Christmas.  On the first day, the gift that my true love gave to me was a "partridge in a pear tree."  It is popularly considered that the partridge refers to Christ.  Popularized by Linus in the Charlie Brown Christmas movie, there is a reference to Christ as a mother partridge who protects her young.  "Jerusalem, Jerusalem! How often I would I have sheltered you under my wings, as a hen does her chicks, but you would not have it so..." (Luke 13:34).
The problem with this perspective is that most scholars agree that the song was written by Roman Catholics trying to maintain their faith under Protestant England.  In Roman Catholic iconography and imagery, a partridge almost always represents Satan.  From 1 Samuel 26:20 and Jeremiah 17:11, the partridge is characterized as a negative symbol.  In 1 Samuel, the King of Israel actually goes out to hunt the partridge.  Many scholars propose that the King of Israel, Jesus Christ, hunts the partridge...Satan...and delivers him vanquished.  This first day, therefore, is a reminder that Christ has defeated Satan and the powers of darkness.
Regardless of your perspective, this first day is a focus on the One who is born, Christ Jesus.  He is the author and finisher of our faith.  We are Christians, followers of Jesus Christ.  We are a people who proclaim Him as "true God from true God."  Jesus is the Son of God, God the Son, the second person of the Trinity.  "In the  beginning was the Word (the capital "W" always means that the word is referencing Christ, not the Bible...a lower case "w" is the Bible) and the Word was with God and the Word was God." (John 1:1)
Remember Christ this Christmas Day. He is alive. He is here. He is within you. He is in the sacred mystery of our Lord's Supper. He is in the proclamation of the word, the sermon. He is in the world and it is through Him the world both came into being and remains to this day. Merry Christmas to all my fellow disciples of Jesus Christ.

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