Twelve Days of Christmas

Most of our Christmas celebrations these days happen in the days leading up to Christmas, but that has not always been the case. In 567, the Council of Tours proclaimed the twelve days of Christmas (the days from Christmas Day until Epiphany, to be a sacred season. Historically there was a suspension of work, celebrations of Saints Days, and many festivities, especially on the final evening (Twelfth Night).

I’m sure you’ve heard the Christmas song about the twelve days of Christmas. Did you know it may have a hidden meaning? One theory about the origins of this carol links it to the period when Catholicism was outlawed in England (1558-1829). Since Catholics could not practice their faith openly, the song was developed as a sort of catechism to teach the fundamentals of belief surreptitiously. There’s no overwhelming evidence to support this idea, but it is interesting.

Here are the verses of the song, along with their supposed symbolism:

  • A Partridge in a Pear Tree – Jesus Christ
  • Two Turtle Doves – The Old and New Testaments
  • Three French Hens – The three virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity
  • Four Calling Birds – Four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John
  • Five Golden Rings – First five books of the Old Testament
  • Six Geese-a-Laying – Six days of creation before God’s rest on the seventh day
  • Seven Swans-a-Swimming – Seven gifts of the Holy Spirit
  • Eight Maids-a-Milking – Eight Beatitudes
  • Nine Ladies Dancing – Nine fruits of the Holy Spirit
  • Ten Lords-a-Leaping – Ten Commandments
  • Eleven Pipers Piping – Eleven faithful disciples
  • Twelve Drummers Drumming –Twelve points of belief in the Apostles’ Creed

For more Christmas carols, see these posts:

12 Days of Christmas Carols- Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming

Famous Christmas Carols – Story Behind the Carol – “O Come All Ye Faithful”

It Came Upon a Midnight Clear

O Holy Night

Here are some facts you probably don’t know about this well-known and loved Christmas song.

*It was written in 1847 by the commissionaire of wines of a small French town. He was known for his poetry but was not devout and later walked away from the church entirely.

*The music was composed by a Jewish musician, a friend of the poet.

*It became one of the most popular Christmas songs in France but was eventually denounced by the church when the backgrounds of the poet and the composer were discovered.

*It was introduced in America by a Unitarian minister who was an abolitionist. He was attracted to the song because of some lines in the third verse: “Chains shall he break for the slave is our brother; and in His name all oppression shall cease.”

*In 1906 it became the first live song ever sent via radio waves.

*It’s also my husband’s favorite Christmas song, so I’m putting it up for him (and you) to enjoy on Christmas Eve.

*For more Christmas Carols see:

12 Days of Christmas Carols- Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming

Famous Christmas Carols – Story Behind the Carol – “O Come All Ye Faithful”

Joy to the World

Mary, A Servant #2

Many people love the modern carol, Mary Did You Know.  In fact, at our recent Christmas Luncheon for the women of the church, somebody asked if it could be sung on Christmas Eve. Beth Ann’s post about Mary, a servant of God, made me think of it.  It seems appropriate to both our theme and the season. Here’s the story behind the song as told by the author Mark Lowry.

“In 1984, Jerry Falwell called and asked me to write the program for their next Living Christmas Tree.

As I wrote the ‘speaking parts’ I began to think about Mary. I have always been fascinated with the concept that God came to earth.

…As my mind went back to the manger scene, I began to think about the power, authority and majesty she cradled in her arms. Those little lips were the same lips that had spoken worlds into existence. All of those things were contained in the young child lying quietly on her bosom. Even now, he was the very one who had given life to his mother, Mary.”

And for those who know and treasure it, and for anyone who hasn’t heard it yet, here’s the song.


Merry Christmas from an Introvert

OK, I’ve had it.  In the last three days I’ve been to a Women’s Christmas luncheon, a church fellowship lunch, the meeting of my accountability group, a big family Christmas party,  dinner with some friends and a visiting missionary couple, followed by a presentation about their ministry in Brazil which was hosted at our congregation and included (because after all we’re Lutherans) snacks and coffee.  This is way too much social interaction  for the average introvert.  I’m exhausted.  Is this what being “merry” is all about?

See the source image

These days “Merry Christmas” evokes images of parties and gift exchanges, games and singing, eating and drinking.  Do you know that originally “merry” had a very different connotation?  In earlier times, merry meant contented, peaceful, glad — as in God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen (if you think the gentlemen were merry, you’re ignoring the comma or placing it incorrectly).  This well known carol is about taking comfort in knowing that the birth of Christ released us from the bondage of sin and saved us from the punishment we deserved.  We could rest (remain) merry (happy and satisfied) in our new status as saved children of God.  How great is that?  Isn’t it more meaningful than all the parties and presents in the world?

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not Scrooge.  I love my church and my family.  I enjoy good fellowship with friends. Food and fun?  I’m all for that in moderation.  I’m just asking, as an introvert, could we please turn it down a notch?  Could we leave some space to meditate on the true gift we’ve been given?  Could we keep the main thing (worshipping our great God), the main thing?

I wish all our readers a Merry Christmas, in the true meaning of the word.

12 Days of Christmas Carols- Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming

This is my favorite Christmas song, and I thought our readers would enjoy reading about its’ origins I did!. In our hymnal, The Ambassador, it is reworded and titled, “Behold a Branch is Growing” in order to emphasize Jesus rather than Mary.   Still waiting for others to send the Lutheran Ladies some Christmas carols that touch their hearts!


rosa“Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming,” is a German hymn first printed in 1582.  Written anonymously under the title “Es ist ein Ros entsprungen,” this song originally had about 19 stanzas.  As we’ve seen, those Germans really love their long songs.  In 1599 they even bumped it up to 23, but these days it’s usually trimmed down to 5 or 6.  A lot of hands have been involved in the transmission and translation of the words to the hymn.  In the 19th cent., Theodore Baker gave us the first two stanzas in English, translating from the German original.  Friedrich Layritz wrote two more stanzas around the same time, and these have been translated by Harriett R. Spaeth.  John C Mattes added another stanza in 1914.  Catherine Winkworth even got involved by translating a variant version of the hymn.  There were so many different options because of all those earlier stanzas…

View original post 784 more words

The Peace of Christmas

If I had to choose a song that exemplifies the peace we all want to feel in our hearts at Christmas, it would be Silent Night.  Here is the story of how it came to be composed and popularized, in case you have never heard it.

The reason “Silent Night” was created: How the world’s most famous Christmas carol came to be written and set to music

“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night” — Luke 2:8

In 1818, a roving band of actors was performing in towns throughout the Austrian Alps. On December 23 they arrived at Oberndorf, a village near Salzburg where they were to re-enact the story of Christ’s birth in the small Church of St. Nicholas.
Unfortunately, the St. Nicholas’ church organ wasn’t working and would not be repaired before Christmas. (Note: some versions of the story point to mice as the problem; others say rust was the culprit) Because the church organ was out of commission, the actors presented their Christmas drama in a private home. That Christmas presentation of the events in the first chapters of Matthew and Luke put assistant pastor Josef Mohr in a meditative mood. Instead of walking straight to his house that night, Mohr took a longer way home. The longer path took him up over a hill overlooking the village.
From that hilltop, Mohr looked down on the peaceful snow-covered village. Reveling in majestic silence of the wintry night, Mohr gazed down at the glowing Christmas-card like scene. His thoughts about the Christmas play he had just seen made him remember a poem he had written a couple of years before. That poem was about the night when angels announced the birth of the long-awaited Messiah to shepherds on a hillside.
Mohr decided those words might make a good carol for his congregation the following evening at their Christmas eve service. The one problem was that he didn’t have any music to which that poem could be sung. So, the next day Mohr went to see the church organist, Franz Xaver Gruber. Gruber only had a few hours to come up with a melody which could be sung with a guitar. However, by that evening, Gruber had managed to compose a musical setting for the poem. It no longer mattered to Mohr and Gruber that their church organ was inoperable. They now had a Christmas carol that could be sung without that organ.
On Christmas Eve, the little Oberndorf congregation heard Gruber and Mohr sing their new composition to the accompaniment of Gruber’s guitar.
Weeks later, well-known organ builder Karl Mauracher arrived in Oberndorf to fix the organ in St. Nicholas church. When Mauracher finished, he stepped back to let Gruber test the instrument. When Gruber sat down, his fingers began playing the simple melody he had written for Mohr’s Christmas poem. Deeply impressed, Mauracher took copies of the music and words of “Silent Night” back to his own Alpine village, Kapfing. There, two well-known families of singers — the Rainers and the Strassers — heard it. Captivated by “Silent Night,” both groups put the new song into their Christmas season repertoire.

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.

     The Strasser sisters spread the carol across northern Europe. In 1834, they performed “Silent Night” for King Frederick William IV of Prussia, and he then ordered his cathedral choir to sing it every Christmas eve.
Twenty years after “Silent Night” was written, the Rainers brought the song to the United States, singing it (in German) at the Alexander Hamilton Monument located outside New York City’s Trinity Church.
In 1863, nearly fifty years after being first sung in German, “Silent Night” was translated into English (by either Jane Campbell or John Young). Eight years later, that English version made its way into print in Charles Hutchins’ Sunday School Hymnal. Today the words of “Silent Night” are sung in more than 300 different languages around the world.


Joy to the World

We’re well into advent, and I’ve been thinking about how the subject of many traditional carols involves one or more fruits of the spirit.  The first one to come to my mind is “Joy to the World.”  This hymn was written by Isaac Watts, a prolific song writer, known as “the father of English hymnody.”  You may notice it doesn’t mention the baby Jesus, the manger scene, shepherds or angels.  That’s because Watts did not write it as a Christmas song.  It is actually based loosely on Psalm 98:

“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth;  break forth into joyous song and sing praises!

Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody!

With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord!

So you can sing this hymn not just at Christmas, but all year long.  I’m posting the lyrics below.  Enjoy!

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the world, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

Read more: Christmas Carols – Joy To The World Lyrics | MetroLyrics