Wednesday, November 30, 2011

day 7 - a partridge? really?

One of my favorite Christmas carols of all time: "The Twelve Days of Christmas."

I've sung it all kinds of ways--at all kinds of parties--for all kinds of ice-breakers--on hay-rides and at front doors and in the car riding down the highway to pass the time.

It never has made sense to me. I was always confused by the end of the first line and it continued from there: "On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me, a partridge in a pear tree."

'Scuse me?  THAT would be a dud gift in the game of Dirty Santa, for sure!

A few years ago, however, I came across some information that explained the song. Some people say there is no evidence to support this information, but the consensus is that it is accurate.

In England in the Middle Ages, there was much persecution of Christians going on during the so-called "religious wars." So, in order to teach their children basic principals of their faith, this Christmas song was written which had a very different meaning from the actual words. Basically, it was written "in code."

According to history, there was a meaning behind each of the gifts.  Read on...

Day 1: A partridge in a pear tree symbolized the gift of Jesus Christ to the world (Luke 13:34)

Day 2: Two turtle doves represented the Old and New Testaments

Day 3: Three French hens represented faith, hope, and love (1 Corinthians 13:13)

Day 4: Four calling birds symbolized the four gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John

Day 5: Five gold rings were the five books of the Penteteuch: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy

Day 6: Six geese a-laying represented the six days of creation in Genesis 1

Day 7: Seven swans a-swimming symbolized the seven gifts of the Spirit:

Day 8: Eight maids-a-milking represented the eight Beatitudes in Matthew 5

Day 9: Nine ladies dancing symbolized the nine parts of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5

Day 10: Ten lords-a-leaping recalled the ten commandments in Exodus 20

Day 11: Eleven pipers piping symbolized the eleven faithful disciples in Luke 6

Day 12: Twelve drummers drumming helped them remember the twelve points of the Apostle's Creed of the Church.

It sort of makes me pause and think of the persecution involved in the creation of the song that I have ridiculed more than any other at Christmas.

And I sing it with just a little bit more appreciation for the partridge...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

day 6 - sing!

"And the angel of the Lord said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people!"
~Luke 2:10

Monday, November 28, 2011

day 5 - the hanging of the greens

"I'm just not going to fool with decorating this year."

"We only decorate for the kids. Now that they are gone, I'm not going to do it."

"The grandkids won't be in this year, so we aren't going to decorate. It's just too much trouble."

"It's just me left at home now. Why fool with all of that?"

You have heard it said and so have I.  You may have even agreed with the one who said it.  (For the record, I may have kept silent, but I NEVER agreed.) You may have even said it yourself. You may even be one who doesn't decorate.

We have probably all heard those who love to talk about how Christmas is really a pagan holiday and it really isn't Jesus' actual birthday anyway, and we are really worshipping trees, and Christmas is just too commercialized now anyway and a true Christian doesn't need decorations--they just need to celebrate the love of God all year round, and on and on it goes.

I find it easy to dismiss all of the above nit-pickiness since I love the atmosphere of the Season.  Anything that brings more of a God-awareness to our homes and society is a good thing.  I know it probably isn't Jesus' actual birthday, but is that really the point?  I know I'm not worshipping the tree, and I know I don't need decorations to celebrate the love of God, so whatever floats your boat, right?

I even felt this way regarding any kind of Christmas decorating.  For years, I was of the opinion that it was everybody's individual choice. Whatever they wanted to do--to each his own. I certainly didn't agree, because I simply love Christmas decorations and twinkling lights, but that was my personal preference and I certainly wasn't going to foist it on anybody

However, in the past few years, I have been re-considering.

Because of the fact that festivals were instituted by God himself (see the book of Leviticus and research Old Testament feasts) it is definitely Biblical that we celebrate an event of such importance.  Because of the fact that the order and agenda of the festivals were instituted by God himself (again, see the book of Leviticus and research Old Testament feasts) I also feel it is Biblical that we eat, laugh, take off work, and enjoy a few hours/days of special love and bonding in His Name.  And, because of the fact that God was even present in the decorating details (see scripture listed at the bottom of this post) I feel that it is probably Biblical that we decorate.

In some fashion. Probably with greens of some sort. Even if you live alone or the grandkids aren't coming home this year. Even if it seems to be a little extra trouble. Even if you aren't very good at it and it turns out to be a little bit tacky.

Not to honor a pagan practice. Not to draw attention to a selfish pursuit. Not to commercialize a sacred, holy event.

But to let Him know that we are celebrating the fact He came. It's His birthday, and we love Him.

I'm not suggesting that anybody make a doctrine out of this post.

I'm just offering my take on an aspect of Christmas that is normally overlooked...

"And ye shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook; and ye shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days."
~Leviticus 23:40

Sunday, November 27, 2011

day 4 - come. let us go...

The Holiday season is just beginning. The Season has just started. The anticipation of the coming event has just begun.

So come, let us go and worship.

Still basking in the glow of thankfulness, senses still heightened to the blessings of the year, our focus has now begun to shift a bit to the "to-do" list. We wake in the night to add to it. We work hard to shut off the thoughts of it during pre-dawn conversations with Him. We struggle to retain the focus of the reason for the season.

Isn't that the biggest struggle of the entire event? The fight to resist the expectations, the commercialism, the busyness?

This 4th day is our center. Our balance beam. Our stabilizing bar of the up and the down.

Come, let us go and worship.

We will enter with thanksgiving and praise. We will remember the ultimate gift. And we will allow Him to speak softly to us as He directs us to the hurting hearts in our world, rendered vulnerable by the Season.

Come, let us go and worship.

Let us bring our offering to him as a collective body--our chosen ecclesia--and offer him our unified commitment to keep Him at the forefront of the coming weeks. Power down the smartphone, close the computer, take out the headphones. Lay aside the pad and pen, forget about the budget, re-visit forgiveness. Let us remember Mary's loneliness, focus on Josephs's unselfishness, and pray to obtain the blind trust of the wise men.

Come, let us go and worship.

"We will go into his tabernacles: we will worship at his footstool."
~Psalm 132:7

Saturday, November 26, 2011

day 3 - settling in

It's inevitable. Tiny snippets of routine are creeping quietly back into the day. Putting the coffeepot back in its spot by the sink. Picking up clothes thrown over the backs of chairs. Sweeping by the back door.

Sunday comes again in a few hours which means Full Court Press in a parson's house.

But the "something" is still in the atmosphere. The awareness of the fact The Season is here. It's routine, but not. It's familiar, but not. It's normal, but not.

The fire is just a little cozier on this rainy Saturday. Enough slowness remains for deeper reflection and communion in the early morning God-talk. Intentional naming of Blessing #3 of the Year makes the me-focus just a little bit blurrier than normal. Family cords feel tighter, friendships feel stronger, and "it's gonna be alright after all" is persistently creeping in through the cracks.

Personal epiphany: this is His party--His festival--and He is happier than any of us that it is happening! He says, "Rest. Think. Dream. Thank. Eat. Laugh. Enjoy. And let Me take part with you..."

I know also, my God, that thou triest the heart, and has pleasure in uprightness. As for me, in the uprightness of mine heart I have willingly offered all these things: and now have I seen with joy thy people, which are present here, to offer willingly unto thee.
~ 1 Chronicles 29:17

Friday, November 25, 2011

day 2 - airports, football, and dirty dishes

Well, of COURSE I'm an LSU fan! I'm a TIGER! What in the world did you expect???

And I KNOW this is about 40 days of celebration of the Christmas season.  

Do you think I'm really thinking it's about FOOTBALL?  

The Arkansas Razorback Shocks and the LSU Tiger Shocks (and all others!) face off -- one in their red, the other in their purple and gold. Talking smack, one-upping, superiority dripping. Laughter, fun, friendship. Condolences to the Hog fans after a DEMORALIZING loss (41-17!) Oh well, there's always next year.

Chips and dip, lasagna, and Coke. Trying to cut the richness of yesterday's taste with new seasonings. Smiling, chuckling, laughing uproariously. A little bit in awe of the beauty of the time together. Singing, painfully off-key, at the top of the lungs. For an hour. With music and without. Joyful noise. The puzzle this year is a hard one and Norman Rockwell just can't seem to emerge from the top of the coffee table. The men are proving their masculinity as they kneel over the table...frustrated that they can't conquer all in 30 minutes.

Airports are sad on this 2nd day of the Celebration. The visit so anticipated is over. Can we pretend it's Tuesday and we still have 3 days? But the quiet gift of early morning time by the fire as He joined the conversation about life and goals and Logos will also board the plane and linger...

The goodbyes are bittersweet with no date set for the next time. College beckons, jobs await, adventure is calling--unknown futures with concern for choices yet to be made, decisions yet to be reached. We part, but not with despair. He is why we celebrate together, He goes with each one as they go. He is in the future and He will bring us back again. 

Peace follows us to bed as we realize that because of Christmas, we are not alone.

"...Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." 
~Matthew 28:20

Thursday, November 24, 2011

day 1 - opening day of the Christmas season!

Opening Day of the Christmas Season (otherwise known as Thanksgiving)!

We aren't skipping over Thanksgiving.  Oh no, au contraire!

We are beginning the entire Season with it.

The countdown has been on for about 3 weeks.  Trees are up and twinkling with lights. The one in the front window has all the ornaments collected from Christmases past and foreign lands. The big Nativity is on the piano. The puzzle is on the coffee table. (A few pieces are being chewed by Roxy, but it's mostly intact and everybody is cool with chewed-up pieces). Chicken and cornbread dressing is melding the flavors in MaMaw Smith's dressing pan, the sweet tea is piling up in the carafe, and Kim's pumpkin pie is due through the door any second.

A deep Southern Thanksgiving meal is close to the finish line and even hearts walking through present sorrow can't help but smile with anticipation.

Cars are pulling up and parking in the grass and foil-covered dishes are walking up the driveway. Get out of the ham, stop sneaking pieces of the turkey, we'll be ready in just a minute, stay out of that bowl, get out of here, I can't get a thing done with you under my feet, get in here right now, everybody gather in the den...I'm thankful for...what I'm most thankful for...this year, I want to thank God for...even though...I'm--I'll be able to say it in a second--I--I just am so thankful...He's been so good to me...I wouldn't want to be anywhere else...I don't deserve...I wouldn't trade it for anything...

...and so, dear Lord, we come before you now to give you thanks for this year.  Thank you for the beauty and the pain, the joy and the sorrow, the bounty and the want.  We have had our share of gray, but you have even been in the gray. Bless this house and these people and all who have gathered here with us this day...bless this food and the hands that prepared it...go with us now as we celebrate your coming to us...we give you thanks...

"Enter into His gates [His season, His birthday celebration, the time of joyful feasting] with thanksgiving and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name."  
~Psalms 100:4

Monday, November 14, 2011

Rick Warren's Surprising Advice to Pentecostal Churches

Interesting article.

Thanks to Raymond Woodward for passing along the link.

I have too many comments, so I will just let you read and see what you say...just click on the link below to read the article.

Rick Warren's Surprising Advice to Pentecostal Churches

it all comes down to faith...

All the questions...and confusion...and "well, I think"...and you're taking it too far...and God wants us to be happy...and grace means I don't have to respond in any way at all to God's love except to just say yes...and yada, mumbo-jumbo, blah, blah, blah...

It just all comes down to faith.

Faith that the Word of God is absolute and that Every. Single. Word. was breathed out of the mouth of God. (2 Timothy 3:16 - "All scripture is given by inspiration of God.") Inspiration comes from the Greek word "theopneustos" meaning "to breathe or blow."  It implies sound--words--vocal intonation.

If Every. Single. Word. in the Bible was breathed by the God of the universe, then I don't have much room to quibble, do I?

The final question--the bottom line--comes down to this:  Do you really believe that every single word in the Bible was breathed by God?