The Young Man at the Tomb Holding Fast to Each Other Amen to What We Are The Lord, Our Justice Claiming Our True Name What We Expect The Comma Keeping the Demons Quiet The Dove in the Heavens Thankfulness and Generosity Speaking to Jesus A Promise to Simeon and Us A Sign for You The Voice in the Wilderness How Annunciations Work The Least, the Lost, and the Last Waiting for Christ’s Return Attire for the Kingdom The Cross in a Violent World Come to the Banquet Today Anointing of the Sick Finding the Eternal Change and Continuity Paying Attention The First and the Last Using Bad Consequences How to Talk to God Ready to Forgive Facing the Serpent Priority and Mutuality Three Meals a Day Searching for Pearls The Power of Service Why Walk on Water? The Day Jesus Was Wrong The Promise of the New Name The Two Feet of Love Facing the Hour Looking Backwards Touching the Leper Touching the Leper Misunderstanding God Doing It Poorly God’s Midwife A Name for the Holy Spirit The Coffin So We Do Not Have to Touch Being Better to Each Other Earthquakes and Galilee Lazarus as a Disciple Seeing More Learning from Peter Imitating God’s Holiness Weekly Bulletin 3/2/14 Imitating God’s Holiness Weekly Bulletin 3/9/14 Choosing a Master Goodness in Temptation A Pinch of Salt Teaching the Commandments The Freedom of the Baptist Christ’s Broken Body Faith Is More than Looking The Twelve Days of Christmas God’s Timing Resurrection and Transformation The Good That Is Gone Zacchaeus Moments God in the Smallest Things Trust and Community When God’s Commands Do Not Fit The Faith of Honeybees Choosing Hell Following the Dishonest Steward The Ninety-Nine The Freedom to Let Go Beyond Politics The Balance of Humility Not Fearing Fire The Beauty Remains To Welcome as a Samaritan A Moveable Peace Bring On the Women! The Two Sides of Bread Waiting for the Ticket The Groove of the Spirit Jesus Is Not Like Congress A Divine Partnership What Kind of Love Is This? Boston Bombings and God Fishing and Forgiveness A New Kind of Joy Letting Christ Out The Sign of Inversion Our Doodling God A Parable of Love and Jealousy Not Enough Time The Ordinary and the Transcendent The Battle with the Devil God Is Not Kidding The Power of Love We Are the Body of Christ The Arc of Life Waiting for the Final Gift Displacement at Christmas Incarnating God Presenting the Mess Red Cake and Lima Beans A Call to Serve Beyond Asking Jesus’ Commandment Being Ready to Take God in the Foxhole God Is Still Working Adjusting What Is Necessary Learning from the Prophet Amos About Jesus’ Brothers The Most Popular Miracle The Importance of Hunger Eternal Life Influencing Others Finding the Right Proportion Do What You Love Stopping for the Least To Love Irritating People Marriage, Divorce, and Children Asking for More Drinking the Cup Terror in Paris God Will Come Boundaries, Security, and Generosity Feeling Movements of Life A Place to Learn God Uses Small Things Signs of Life When God Says No Christian Optimism From Transition to Call The Long Struggle The Gate of Heaven Common Sense or Hope The Spoiled Son An Oasis for Everyone Jesus’ Last Meal The Curious Omission Finding a Pony Anointing of the Sick A New Commandment After the Ascension Sin and Love The Cross and Joy The Call to Follow A Call for Humility Violence in America Two Thoughts on Prayer Live Today with Thanksgiving An Examined Life The Narrow Gate Serving Ourselves Losing Sheep Using Dishonest Wealth The Door and the Chasm Faith and Duty Distance and More Not Growing Weary Making a Difference Inadequacies and Grace Finding God Facing Turmoil Jesus, Remember Me The Lion and the Lamb Wild Like John Let Go in Love A Wider Christmas The Last Six Miles God’s Big Plan The Remnant The Salt of the Earth Beyond the Ten Commandments Love Your Enemy Focusing Our Worry How Evil Works Our Transfiguration Re-membering Our Lives Our Story If Only The Time for Hope A Second Greeting of Peace The Eucharist and Welcoming Practicing Non-Violence The Work of Forgiveness Why Are You Looking Up at the Sky? The Mystery of Salvation Being Thankful How Is a Burden Light? The Problem with Sparrows Eternal Creation Patient Vigilance Buried Treasure Thinking Again Where You Do Not Want to Go The Courage to Speak Humility and Truth Do Something Good Knowing the Song Acting Against Evil God Will Come What We Can Say Senseless Violence Invitation as a Threat What Belongs to God Two Commands, Side by Side Burdens We May Not See Foolish or Wise Accepting the Consequences Serving the Least Watching for Jesus Camels and Gnats Becoming Smaller The Christmas Barber The Ring of the Kings The Freedom and Faith of John the Baptist Zebedee The Opioid Crisis Approaching, Grasping, Lifting Up What God Intends The Battle with Satan Following Elijah and Moses Standing in Truth A God of Love or Condemnation When Life Turns Not Fully Prepared The Wounds We Carry Selling Onions Son of Encouragement To Love as God Loves Engagement with the World Doubting Disciples Sabbath Avoiding the Diabolical Persistent Hope Speaking the Word Within Us “And Also With You” Capital Punishment I Will Go On Three Wise Choices Will You Also Leave? Show No Partiality Carrying the Cross for Whom? Outside the Lines The Camel and the Needle Ask First for Sight What God Sees Only God The Arc of the Universe Turmoil, Fear, and Dismay The Gift of the Desert A Punch for the Holidays Politics and Religion Jesus Always Understands One Body God’s Love The Call Blessings and Woes Imitating God’s Mercy The Blind Leading the Blind The Devil’s Agenda Looking Closer, Looking Beyond Accepting God’s Love Mob Thinking The Easter Egg Fishing with Uncle Mike Loving Like Jesus God’s in Love with This World

The Twelve Days of Christmas

January 5, 2014
Isaiah 60:1-6; Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6
Fr. George Smiga

We all know the carol, The Twelve Days of Christmas. But what twelve days is it referring to? The Twelve Days extend from Christmas day, December 25, and run to the feast of the Epiphany, January 6. We are celebrating Epiphany today because in the United States we move Epiphany to the closest Sunday. But you get the idea. Christmas is not a feast that we celebrate on one day but rather a feast that we celebrate for twelve days. We do this for two reasons.

The first is when we look at the size of the gift that we have received at Christmas, the gift of the Eternal Word made flesh, that gift is enormous. Today’s first reading from Isaiah says that gift of Christ is a light to all nations. Today’s second reading, from the Letter to the Ephesians, talks about Christ being given to all humanity, both Jew and Gentile alike. So when we recognize how great the gift is that we have received, it takes more than one day to celebrate it. That is why tradition has given us twelve.

But there is a second reason why we need twelve days at Christmas. It results from what we are expected to give. When we recognize how much we have received, the gift of God’s own son, then it becomes clear to us that we must give to others in light of that tremendous gift. That is more giving than we usually imagine. It is for this reason that both in tradition and in song, gifts are given not only on the first day of Christmas but on each of the twelve days.

That is a lot of gifts to give. In fact every year on-line someone goes around to establish the cost of three French hens and ten lords-a-leaping to total up all the gifts at current prices. This year the cost came out at $24,430. Surprisingly, the most expensive item was seven swans-a-swimming. Those birds are $1000 apiece. The cheapest gift was the maids-a-milking. For $58 you can get all eight of them. (I believe that is below minimum wage.) Even more importantly, if you take the song literally, on each of the twelve days of Christmas you are expected to give not only the gift for that day but also all the previous gifts over again. When calculated this way, the full cost of the gifts at today’s prices is $107,300.

That’s a big number. But its very size makes clear how much we are expected to give. And, of course, what we are expected to give is not six geese-a-laying or a partridge in a pear tree. We are expected to give lives that are in conformity with the Gospel of Christ. We are expected to give the benefit of the doubt to the person who irritates us, comfort to those who are suffering, support to those who are poor, respect to those with whom we disagree, and forgiveness to our enemy.

One cannot put a price on that kind of giving. But it certainly costs us. The demands of the Gospel that are placed upon us are significant and real. So how are we to give on this high a level? How can we afford to pay the price? Only by stretching the payments out over time. We are not sure why the early Christians set the dates for Christmas and Epiphany twelve days apart. But the most attractive explanation is that the twelve days were meant to reflect the twelve months of the year. In this way, the Christmas season tells us that we do not have just twelve days to do what Christ asks us to do. We have twelve months. And if we have a whole year to give, then we can pay in smaller installments. We can give in simpler ways.

We might not be able to eliminate prejudice from our hearts in one fell swoop, but we can decide to resist the temptation of making comments and telling jokes that denigrate other people. We might not have the resources to eliminate the poverty around us, but we can choose to offer some contribution on a regular basis that will make a difference. We might not be able to forgive our enemy, but we can choose to pray each week for him or her and ask God to give us the strength to forgive.

When we look at how much we have received, the amount that we are expected to give is enormous. That is why Christ gives us time to make the payments. So choose today to take a small step in the right direction, and let Christ guide you. The twelve days of Christmas are now over. But the twelve months of 2014 have just begun.

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