I hope you have had a very happy Christmas!
We celebrate today the feast of Epiphany when we remember the visit of the wise men and their gifts (which may have started the whole present giving thing!)
How many of the presents you have received this Christmas are still left today I wonder – uneaten, unbroken, unreturned – how many were never wanted in the first place?
(As an aside, I hope you have not broken too many New Year’s resolutions yet! Apparently 90% are broken on the first day of January.)
There is an irony too inherent in the Feast of Epiphany – the wise men came to give gifts to the Christ child (of gold and frankincense and myrrh) but in return they, as representatives of the Gentiles, receive the gift which was given to all – the gift that is never consumed, extinguished or broken – the light to lighten the Gentiles – the treasure stored up for us in heaven which neither moth nor rust can destroy, nor thieves break in and steal (Matthew 6:20).
The celebrated song, the 12 Days of Christmas, is a whole list of temporal and generally impractical presents which have given rise to a host of parodies, like this one by John Julius Norwich http://www.monologues.co.uk/Parodies/Twelve_Days_Correspondence.htm
But numbers are at the heart of our faith – 10 commandments, 6 days of creation, the number 3 in the Trinity, one true God – and it is possible to construct a spiritual version of the 12 days of Christmas which helps us remember the one everlasting gift which we have been given – the relationship which we have with God through his son Jesus Christ.
So as you are taking down the tree, the tinsel and the holly in the next couple of days, perhaps you might spare some time to think about the following alternative list of gifts
Spiritual 12 days of Christmas
1 Jesus crucified (on Calvary or in the garden of Eden)
2 Testaments – Old and New
3 Virtues – Faith, Hope and Charity (1 Cor. 13:13)
5 The Pentateuch or TORAH—the first 5 books of Old Testament
6 Days of creation
- Day and night
- Sky and water
- Dry land and vegetation
- Sun and moon
- Fish and birds
- Living creatures, man
7 Gifts of the spirit in Isa.11:2
- fear of the Lord
or in Rom. 12:6-8
8 Beatitudes (Mat.5:3-12)
- Blessed are the poor in spirit
- Blessed are those who mourn
- Blessed are the meek
- Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness
- Blessed are the merciful
- Blessed are the pure in heart
- Blessed are the peacemakers
- Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness
9 Fruits of the spirit (Gal. 5:22-23):
10 Commandments (Ex 20:1-17)
11 Faithful disciples (Mt 10:2)
- Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew
- James son of Zebedee, and his brother John
- Philip and Bartholomew
- Thomas and Matthew the tax collector
- James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus;
- Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
12 Points in the Apostles’ Creed
- I believe in God the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
- I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
- He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.
- Under Pontius Pilate, He was crucified, died, and was buried.
- He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again.
- He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
- He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
- I believe in the Holy Spirit,
- the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints,
- the forgiveness of sins,
- the resurrection of the body,
- and the life everlasting.
(Notes from a sermon preached by Chris Hancock preached at St Andrew’s Box Hill, 4th January, 2015)