February 2015

A Letter from your Lay Minister

Dear Friends,

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and New Year and are now back into a normal routine once again. I was reminded this week that in the church calendar, the season or octave of Christmas continues until Candlemas, and therefore if we wanted to we could have kept our Christmas tree up in church until the beginning of February. Most people believe they should take down their Christmas decorations on Twelfth Night, which I have always thought of as Epiphany (6th January) although many argue that Twelfth Night is 5th January. Please donít ask me which is correct!! Twelfth Night got me thinking about the twelve days of Christmas and I remembered someone in church asking me about the meaning of the twelve gifts mentioned in the carol. I knew I had found an explanation in a book somewhere and after some searching through my books at home I found it. I cannot guarantee its truth or accuracy, but it does seem plausible. Some may already know this explanation or something similar.

Between 1558 and 1829, it was a criminal offence for Roman Catholics in England to practise their faith either publicly or privately. Effectively it was a crime to be a Roman Catholic. This made it very difficult for Roman Catholics to bring up their children in the faith, and in particular to teach the catechism since nothing could be put in writing. The answer was to put the catechism into the form of a song which children could learn off by heart which taught them all the tenets of their faith. That song was The Twelve Days of Christmas. We all know the words of the song:-

Day 1 A partridge in a pear tree. This represents Jesus Christ the Son of God on the Cross.
Day 2 Two turtle doves. The Old and New Testaments of the Bible.
Day 3 Three French hens. Faith, Hope and Love, the theological virtues.
Day 4 Four calling birds. The four Gospel writers or Evangelists.
Day 5 Five gold rings. The Pentateuch or first five books of the Old Testament.
Day 6 Six geese a-laying. The six days in which God created the world.
Day 7 Seven swans a-swimming. The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: Wisdom, Understanding, Knowledge, Counsel, Fortitude, Piety and Fear of the Lord.
Day 8 Eight maids a-milking. The eight Beatitudes [Matthew 5:3-11] There are actually 9!! But perhaps one is omitted in Roman Catholic Bibles.
Day 9 Nine ladies dancing. The nine fruits of the Holy Spirit. (Gal 5:22-23)
Day 10 Ten Lords a-leaping. The Ten Commandments.
Day 11 Eleven pipers piping. The eleven faithful Disciples (omitting Judas Iscariot)
Day 12 Twelve drummers drumming. The twelve points of doctrine in the Apostles Creed .

So now you know what the Twelve Days of Christmas is really all about. It will never be the same again will it?

Just a reminder that although until 2nd February it is still Christmas, we will soon be in Lent!! Ash Wednesday falls on 18th February. I will be running the usual Thursday evening Lent Group, and I will be reviving a course which I first used in 2000 called All Together Now, which explores the journey of faith in words and music. Signing up sheets will be on the notice board soon, so please sign up if you are interested in attending. This is a good course for those who enjoy hymn singing, but others need not be discouraged!!

With many blessings to you all,

Malcolm Harper