Celebrating Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday, the Beginning of Lent

Pancakes for Fat Tuesday - small

Want more joy in your Christian life? God ordained special days in Scripture for His people to focus on Him and enjoy His goodness. This article provides one way to discover our Lord more fully and bring more contentment into life…to celebrate the beginning of Lent.

Jesus died on Passover, the perfect sacrifice to wash away the sins of man. He rose from the dead, the first and only man to ever do so, on the third day. Forty days later, on Ascension Day, Jesus ascended into heaven.[1] Fifty days after Passover, which is ten days after Jesus’ ascension, the Jews celebrate the Feast of the First Fruits, also known as Pentecost (Leviticus 23:9-14).

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The Twelve Days of Christmas

The English Christmas carol The Twelve Days of Christmas was first published in England in 1780 as part of a children’s book, Mirth without Mischief.  The song’s earlier history is shrouded in mystery but it may be French. The meter is irregular, especially notable in the drawn out “Five golden rings”. Most of the earliest citations of the song do not include music, but English composer Frederic Austin wrote an arrangement in 1909 that is the one most often used today.

 

The song appears to be a silly tune about increasingly grandiose gifts given the singer by his or her True Love, and that may indeed be all that the song is. In his article How to Decode the Twelve Days of Christmas, Canadian hymnologist Hugh D. McKellar suggested that the song uses ordinary imagery to convey religious truths. Some priests and chaplains have supported these claims, stating that the song was used as a catechism for children during periods of persecution.

 

We may never know the real origin of the Twelve Days of Christmas, but we can use the song today to teach and remember some basic truths about our Christian faith. For that purpose,  some of the possible meanings of each day are listed below:

 

December 26, Boxing Day – A Partridge in a Pear Tree

 

Symbolic of Jesus Christ on the Cross

 

Boxing Day/St. Stephens Day

 

According to one legend, in the Middle Ages, peasants were expected to bring Christmas gifts to their noble masters to thank them for land and protection.   Though in poverty, they had little choice.  During his reign, Good King Wenceslas of Bohemia (907-929 AD) changed the tradition by presenting gifts to his peasants.  The song Good King Wenceslas came from this tradition. Eventually Boxing Day became a holiday celebrated in the Britain, Canada and Australia to thank one’s subordinates for their contributions with gifts. 

 

December 27 – Two Turtledoves – Old and New Testaments

 

December 28 – Three French Hens – Faith, Hope and Love

 

December 29 – Four Calling Birds – Four Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John

 

December 30 – Five Golden Rings

 

Five Books of the Law (the Pentateuch) – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy

 

December 31 – Six Geese a Laying

 

Six days of Creation (Genesis 1-2)

1.    Day 1 – Light and darkness

2.    Day 2 – Water and the Heavens

3.    Day 3 – Dry land, grass and trees (vegetation)

4.    Day 4 – Sun, moon and stars

5.    Day 5 – Sea creatures

6.    Day 6 – Air and land animals and man.

7.    Day 7 – Rest

 

January 1 – Seven Swans a Swimming

 

Seven gifts of the Holy Spirit (Romans 12:3-8)

1.    Prophecy

2.    Ministry

3.    Teaching

4.    Exhortation

5.    Giving

6.    Ruling (administration)

7.    Mercy

 

January 2 – Eight Maids a Milking

 

Eight beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:3-11)

1.    The poor in spirit

2.    Those who mourn

3.    The meek

4.    Those who hunger and thirst after righteousness

5.    The merciful

6.    The pure in heart

7.    The peacemakers

8.    The persecuted

 

January 3 – Nine Ladies Dancing

 

Nine fruits of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22)

 

January 4 – Ten Lords a Leaping

 

Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:3-17)

1.    Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.

2.    Thou shalt not make any graven image.

3.    Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord in vain.

4.    Remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy.

5.    Honor thy father and mother.

6.    Thou shalt not kill.

7.    Thou shalt not commit adultery.

8.    Thou shalt not steal.

9.    Thou shalt not bear false witness.

10.Thou shalt not covet.

 

January 5 – Eleven Pipers Piping

 

Eleven Faithful Disciples

1.    Simon Peter

2.    Andrew, Peter’s brother

3.    James, son of Zebedee

4.    John, James’ brother

5.    Philip

6.    Bartholemew

7.    Matthew

8.    Thomas

9.    James, son of Alpheus

10.Simon the Zealot

11.Judas, brother of James

 

January 6, Epiphany – Twelve Drummers Drumming

 

The 12 points of 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 the Father.

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 life everlasting.

Amen.

Advent Tree Family Devotions – December 25

Five pointed star

Matthew 2:1‑12; Numbers 24:17; Revelation 22:16

Today is Christmas Day, the day of Christ’s birth, the advent of the Messiah, the Anointed One of Israel, and the Savior of the World.  All that we have learned in the past 24 days has pointed to this day, one of the two most wonderful in the year. 

The symbol for today, the five pointed star, reminds us of the last part of the Christmas story, the star that guided the Magi, who came sometime in the first 12-18 months of Jesus’ life.  Mary and Joseph were directed by God through an edict of Caesar Augustus to Bethlehem, 80 miles to the south. They had little choice to go.  The shepherds were called by the glorious sight of angels in the heavens to go to Bethlehem, a few miles away. They had great incentive to go.  But the Wise Men, nobles in the Parthian empire, were neither forced by Caesar nor enticed by glorious angels.  They traveled the 700 miles because they saw the star, and were looking for a king.     

Many have tried to identify Christ’s star, and there are some fascinating astronomical events that occurred around the time when Jesus was born.  A conjunction of Mars, Jupiter and Saturn occurred in 7-6 BC (occurring only once every 805 years).  Chinese and Korean records identify a nova or supernova in 5 BC and a comet in 4 BC, respectively.  Other rare astronomical findings occurred around the same time, making those few years a period of unusually great activity in the heavens.

The Magi were part of a hereditary priesthood, probably of Scythian origin and often holding great political power, first identified in the 7th century BC.  Over time, the religion of the Magi was incorporated into Zoroastrianism, and came to closely resemble Judaism.  The first Biblical mention of the Magi is in Babylon (Jer 39:3, 13), when Nergal Shar’etser is mentioned as a high official in the court of King Nebuchadnezzar.   During his reign, he made Daniel chief of the Magi (Dan 4:9).  In the ensuing centuries, the political fortunes of the Persians and the Jews were tightly linked as well, fighting against the Macedonians, Seleucids, and Romans.  When the Magi, de facto king-makers in the Parthian empire, visited Jerusalem looking for a Jewish king, Herod’s fear was completely understandable, though his action was evil.  One wonders why the Magi didn’t take the Holy Family back with them to Babylon to wait for Jesus to grow up and then make Him king.  Perhaps they tried.

God used the Magi, the Wise Men, for His holy purpose.  Probably their discovery made a difference in Parthian politics, and their example has attested to the truth of Christ throughout his ministry.  Certainly they gave concrete proof to Joseph and Mary about their unusual child, and they financed their sojourn in Egypt.  Today the five pointed star, the Star of Epiphany, is used to symbolize the Magi’s role in Christmas.  It is placed on the top of the tree and represents the manifested nature of God. The five points symbolize the head, two arms and two legs of a man.

God used the “star” and the Wise Men to accomplish His perfect purpose.  With our lives centered around Him as a planet orbits the sun, so we will accomplish His perfect purpose in our days. 

As these Christmas celebrations draw to a close, let us review each of them, remember their meanings, and consider their impact on our lives.  By so doing, we can heighten our awareness of God and His great work. Until next year!

Silent Night, Holy Night

 

Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon Virgin Mother and Child
Holy Infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace

Silent night, holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight
Glories stream from heaven afar
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!
Christ, the Savior is born
Christ, the Savior is born

Silent night, holy night
Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth

Silent night, holy night,
Wondrous star, lend thy light;
With the angels let us sing
Alleluia to our King;
Christ, the Savior is born,
Christ, the Savior is born.

 

Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht

 

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,
Alles schläft; einsam wacht
Nur das traute hochheilige Paar.
Holder Knabe im lockigen Haar,
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,
Hirten erst kundgemacht
Durch der Engel Halleluja,
Tönt es laut von fern und nah:
Christ, der Retter ist da!
Christ, der Retter ist da!

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,
Gottes Sohn, o wie lacht
Lieb’ aus deinem göttlichen Mund,
Da uns schlägt die rettende Stund’.
Christ, in deiner Geburt!
Christ, in deiner Geburt!