Earlier this month I sat in a pub surrounded by friends and jingle bells. My glass was raised and we were belting out "five goolllddd rriingggs...". As the annual pub carols rendition of the 12 Days of Christmas carried on in all of it's ridiculousness, I started to ponder what they are actually about.
With a bit of internet research I found that the 12 Days of Christmas refer to the days between Christmas and Epiphany, Christ's manifestation to the nations, on January 6. There are several saints' feast days during that time that are accompanied by practices of remembrance.
This information is exciting to me for several reasons. For one, I am a sucker for meaning and purpose. If I can make more days special, I'm going to do it. Having something to celebrate each day is a dream come true for me and I just added 12 more days! Secondly, in my own journey of faith I've found that acknowledging the traditions of the historic Church has added depth and insight into my walk with Christ. And finally, celebrating liturgical practices has given direction to my walk with Jesus and connection to the global Body of Christ that is energizing.
So for the next 12 days I'll be sharing a brief reflection on the feast of the day (when applicable) and inspiration from a book that has been my Advent companion, "When the Time Was Fulfilled" by Eberhard Arnold, Christoph Blumhardt, and Alfred Delp.
There won't be any partridges in a pear tree but nevertheless, I hope you experience true love as you reflect on Christ's arrival and ongoing revelation to the world.
The First Day of Christmas- December 26
The Feast of St. Stephen - Today is traditionally marked by the giving of leftovers to the poor. This is still celebrated in some countries as Boxing Day- when you box up food. The carol "Good King Wenceslas" refers to this tradition. This practice remembers St. Stephen as among the first deacons who were responsible for caring for and feeding the poor in the early church in Acts. Far from a soft or passive act, Stephen's witness was so bold as to threaten others and lead to his martyrdom, the first of the Christian Church.
Reflection from "When the Time Was Fulfilled"
"The Advent message comes out of our encounter with God, with the gospel. It is thus the message that shakes- so that in the end the entire world shall be shaken. The fact that the Son of man shall come again is more than an historic prophecy; it is also a decree that God's coming and the shaking up of humanity are somehow connected. If we are inwardly inert, incapable of being genuinely moved, if we become obstinate and hard and superficial and cheap, then God himself will intervene in world events. He will teach us what it means to be placed in turmoil and to be inwardly stirred. Then the great question to us is whether we are still capable of being truly shocked- or whether we will continue to see thousands of things that we know should not be and must not be and yet remain hardened to them. In how many ways have we become indifferent and used to things that ought not to be?
Being shocked, however, out of our pathetic complacency is only part of Advent. There is much more that belongs to it. Advent is blessed with God's promises, which constitute the hidden happiness of this time. These promises kindle the light in our hearts. Being shattered, being awakened--these are necessary for Advent. In the bitterness of awakening, in the helplessness of "coming to," in the wretchedness of realizing our limitations, the golden threads that pass between heaven and earth reach us. These threads give the world a taste of the abundance it can have." - Alfred Delp
Practice of Remembrance
This year on Dec. 26 I will be away from home and the people I know would benefit from leftovers so I am making a donation to an organization that walks with the economically poor each day. How could you remember the poor today?