Frensham Village Churches

Letter from the Vicarage - February 2016


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

 “On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me…!”

No – before you all say it, I haven’t gone mad…
Two things have prompted me to write about this Christmas carol in February.
Firstly – we had great fun in church on Christmas Day singing this with the whole congregation and when I explained the meaning behind the words many people afterwards asked for a copy so I said I would put it in the Parish Magazine, which would be easier than taking e-mail addresses, etc..
Secondly - it actually ties in very well with the fact that in February we are moving from Candlemas virtually straight into Lent and will start our journey of prayer, discipline and learning to the cross on Good Friday.

So, herewith:

When most people sing “The Twelve days of Christmas” they do not realise it had its origins as a teaching tool to instruct young people in the meaning and content of the Christian faith. Each of the items in the song represents something of Christian religious significance…

  • The ‘True love’ isn’t a suitor but represents God who truly loves his creation and the ‘me’ who receives these presents is the one learning to be a Christian.
  • The ‘Partridge in a pear tree’ was Jesus Christ who died on the tree. Christ is symbolically presented as a mother partridge – a bird which feigns injury to decoy predators from her helpless nestlings. The mother partridge sacrifices herself and dies being ‘eaten by those predators, in order that her children live. Jesus Christ sacrificed himself and died on the cross so that we might know the love of God and live…

  • 2 turtle doves – the Old and New Testaments

  • 3 French hens – Faith, Hope and Charity – the Theological Virtues

  • 4 calling birds – the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke and John

  • 5 gold rings – the first 5 books of the Old Testament, the “Pentateuch”, which gives the history of humanity’s fall from grace; the falling from being in a relationship with God who loves creation so much that God became ‘incarnate’ – God came ‘in flesh’ to meet us that we might truly know God and also the paradox that we live ‘in’ God.

  • 6 geese a-laying – the six days of creation

  • 7 swans a-swimming – the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit (wisdom, understanding, counsel, knowledge, fortitude, piety, and fear of the Lord (wonder)) or the seven sacraments (baptism, confirmation, communion, marriage, anointing, reconciliation, ordination). Note – the swans aren’t static, they are swimming – both the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the sacraments aren’t static either – they are ‘living and moving’ ways of being…

  • 8 maids a-milking – the eight beatitudes found in Matthew’s Gospel (Blessed are they who are poor in spirit, who mourn, who are meek, who hunger and thirst for righteousness (relationship), who are merciful, meek, pure of heart, peacemakers, persecuted for the sake of righteousness (relationship with God)

  • 9 ladies dancing – the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit found in Paul’s letter to the Galatians - charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity.

  • 10 Lords a-leaping  - the ten commandments

  • 11 Pipers Piping – the eleven faithful apostles

  • 12 Drummers drumming – the twelve points of Doctrine in the Apostle’s Creed

  1. I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

  2. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.

  3. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.

  4. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.

  5.  He descended into hell. On the third day he rose again.

  6. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.

  7. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

  8. I believe in the Holy Spirit,

  9. the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints,

  10.  the forgiveness of sins,

  11.  the resurrection of the body,

  12.  and the life everlasting.

Who’d have believed there was so much in a Christmas carol?
As we journey from the end of Christmastide to the cross and beyond, may we live and learn, and grown in God’s love,

With love and prayers,