Tuesday, February 14, 2012

St Valentine's Day February 14th

Feb. 14 -  Saint Valentine's Day 

I received this in an email, and I thought I would share it, as it was very interesting. I knew the story of St Valentine and the story behind the "X" in "Xmas", but the information toward the end regarding the "X", criss cross and signing by the "X" I did not know. 

In the 3rd century, Emperor Claudius II was faced with defending the Roman Empire from the invading Goths.

He believed men who were not married made better soldiers so he forced the military to ban traditional marriage.

He also forced the Senate to deify the former Emperor Gallienus, including him with the Roman gods to be worshiped.

The ten major persecutions of Christians in the first three centuries rendered historical records scarce, but the legend is that Saint Valentine was a priest or bishop in Italy.

When the Emperor demanded the Church violate its conscience and worship pagan idols, Bishop Valentine refused to comply.

Valentine risked the Emperor's wrath by standing up for traditional marriage, and secretly marrying young men and women.

Saint Valentine was arrested, dragged before the Prefect of Rome, who condemned him to be beaten to death with clubs and then have his head cut off on FEBRUARY 14, 269AD.

While awaiting execution, the story is he prayed for the jailers' sick daughter, who miraculously recovered. He wrote her a note and signed it, "from your Valentine."

In 496 AD, Pope Gelasius designated FEBRUARY 14th as "Saint Valentine's Day."

The Greek name for Christ, Χριστός, begins with the letter "Chi" written as an "X," which is why X-mas became the abbreviation for Christmas.

In Medieval times, the "X" was called the Christ's Cross, or as it was later pronounced, "Criss-Cross."

The Christ's Cross was a form of oath, from whence "crossing one's heart" was derived.

Just as people would swear upon a Bible, then say "so help me God" and kiss it, people would sign a document next to the Christ's Cross then kissed it as a promise before God that they would keep the agreement, a practice which has come down to us as "sign at the X"

This is the origin of signing a Valentines' card with "X"s and "O"s to express a pledge before God to be faithful, sealed with a kiss of sincerity.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Christmas Legends

With January 6th, the Epiphany, coming up, I thought I would share some of the Christmas legends behind some time honored traditional symbols of the Christmas season.

The Legend of the Candy Cane

According to legend there was a candy maker who wanted to invent a candy that was a witness to Christ.
First of all, he used a hard candy because Christ is the rock of ages. This hard candy was shaped so that it would resemble a “J” for Jesus or, turned upside down, a shepherd’s staff. He made it white to represent the purity of Christ.

Finally a red stripe was added to represent the blood Christ shed for the sins of the world, and three thinner red stripes for the stripes He received on our behalf when the Roman soldiers whipped Him. Sometimes a green stripe is added as a reminder that Jesus is a gift from God.

The flavor of the cane is peppermint, which is similar to hyssop. Hyssop is in the mint family and was used in the Old Testament for purification and sacrifice. Jesus is the pure Lamb of God, come to be a sacrifice for the sins of the world.
So, every time you see a candy cane, remember the message of the candy maker: Jesus is the Christ!

Another Legend of the Candy Cane

The development of the candy cane took a few hundred years. Before the invention of the modern pacifier, parents gave their babies unflavored white sugar sticks to suck on. During the 1670’s, a German choirmaster had the sugar sticks bent into a shepherd’s staff and passed them out to children attending the Christmas services. This holiday custom spread throughout Europe, and fancy canes, decorated with roses, were used as Christmas decorations in many homes. About 1900, the white candy cane received its traditional red stripes and peppermint flavoring. At the same time the legend of the candy cane came into being. According to this legend, a candy maker in Indiana designed the candy cane to tell the true story of Christmas - a story about a virgin giving birth to a Shepherd who would give up His life for the sheep.

The most obvious symbolism used in the candy cane is its shape. Turned one way, it looks like a “J” for Jesus. The newborn Lamb of God was named Jesus, meaning Savior, because He was destined to “save His people from their sins” (Mt 1:21). Turned the other way, candy canes remind us of the shepherd’s staff. The first people to hear of Christ’s birth were shepherds guarding their flocks at night (Lk 2:8-20). Jesus called Himself the Good Shepherd. The Bible frequently compares the actions of the Messiah to those of a shepherd searching for his lost sheep, feeding them, gently leading them, and carrying them in his bosom (Ps 23; Jn 10:1-18; Is 40:11; Jer 31:10; Micah 5:4; Heb 13:20). The sweetness of the candy reminds us that we are fed on the sweet milk of the Gospel of our salvation and peace (Eph 1:13; 6:15).

The hardness of the candy reminds us that Jesus is our rock of refuge (Deu 32:4, 15, 18; 1 Sam 2:2; 2 Sam 22:32, 47; 23:3; Psa 18:2, 31; 28:1; 92:15; 94:22; 95:1; Is 44:8). In rocky lands like Israel, people often sought shelter from their enemies in the caves or rocky crags of cliffs. Rocks also remind us of the solidness of the promises of Christ who is a precious cornerstone and sure foundation to those who follow Him, but a “stone of stumbling and a rock of offense” to those who reject His gift of peace (1 Pet 2:6-8).

The whiteness of the candy brings to mind the Virgin Birth and the sinless life of Christ (Mt 1:23; Lk 1:34-35). We also are made as pure as the snow through the cleansing action of His blood (Rev 7:9, 14; Is 1:18).

The traditional candy cane has 3 small red stripes to remind us of the soldiers’ stripes by which we are healed and a larger stripe which represents the blood shed by Christ on Calvary’s tree (Is 53:5; Mt 27:32-50). Some people say that the 3 small stripes honor the Holy Trinity while the larger stripe reminds us of the one true God. Others claim that the small stripes represent our mini-passions or sufferings and the great stripe symbolizes Christ’s Passion. A green stripe is sometimes placed on candy canes to remind us that Jesus is God’s gift to us. (Green is the color of giving.)

The peppermint flavor of modern candy canes is said to be similar to hyssop. In Old Testament times, hyssop was associated with purification and sacrifice. During the first Passover celebrations, a bundle of hyssop was used to smear the blood of Passover lambs upon the doorposts of houses so that the Angel of Death would pass over their occupants (Ex 12:22). Bundles of hyssop were also used to sprinkle blood on worshipers and objects during Mosaic purification rituals (Ex 24:6-8; Lev 14:4, 49-52). After his affair with Bathsheba, King David appealed to God’s mercy crying, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me and I shall be whiter than snow” (Ps 51:7). Peppermint reminds us that Jesus is our Passover Lamb (1 Cor 5:7). His blood cleanses us from sin and destroys the power of death (Hosea 13:14; 1 Cor 15:54-57; Heb 2:14-15; Rev 20:6).

Except where otherwise indicated all scripture quotes are from the NKJV.

 Legend of the Christmas Candle

The practice of placing candles in windows in December probably originated in pre-Christian times as part of winter solstice celebrations. However the legend recounted below demonstrated how Christians reinterpreted these candles to represent the light and peace of Christ.

Many years ago an old cobbler and his wife lived in a little village in Austria. Although very poor, whatever they owned they shared with others. Each night they placed a lighted candle in the window of their cottage.. a sign of hospitality to any traveler needing shelter.

Through the years this little village was plagued with war and famine. Yet as though some mysterious charm guarded them, the cobbler and his wife suffered far less than their neighbors.

One evening, on the night before Christmas, the villagers gathered to discuss their plight. “There is something special about the cobbler and his wife. They are always spared our misfortunes. What do they do that we do not? Let us put a candle in our windows too,” said one villager, “perhaps that is the charm.”

That night a candle was lighted in the window of every home, and lo, before the sun rose, a messenger brought great news to the village. Peace had come! The villagers gave thanks to God for this blessing of Peace and vowed to always light candles on Christmas Eve.

This beautiful custom spread throughout the world and each Christmas millions of candles light up our world with their message of love, and everlasting joy.

Christmas Lights
Light is very special to Jesus. In fact, Jesus is often called the Light of the World. Light of the World means Jesus was like a light or a lit candle. If you think about a birthday cake, one candle is able to light many candles from just one flame. When we call Jesus the Light of the World it means Christ’s love works like a candle flame. From one flame many other candles can be lit. Each new light can light many others. Jesus loves you and shares his light and his love with you and with all other Christians. If you pass that light on to others, they can pass it on to even more people, and so on. Jesus is like the first candle who gives out light to all the rest.
When people call Jesus the Light of the World they also mean that He was the bright light that helped people see the right way to live. In a world that was filled with confusion and sadness, Jesus came like a shining light to bring help and hope to all people. 
We can receive that light and guidance from Jesus and pass it along to others, too. The Christmas lights that people put up during Advent can remind us that people spread Jesus’ love and light here on earth. Jesus gives his love and light to us and we can pass it on to others in little ways. We can be the light that brightens another person’s day by helping them, listening to and being there for them or by simply offering a smile.

The First Christmas Tree
 by Timothy Southall

The first Christmas tree was not an evergreen.
The tree was tall, had two branches and was lean.
It was not brought home on top of a car,
They dragged it down Calvary Road, which made it far.
It was not decorated with tinsel of silver or gold.
On it was a sign declaring Him the King of His fold.
We place ornaments on our Christmas tree.
With Jesus, it left scars than even Thomas could see.
Bright lights shine on Christmas morning.
Back then it got dark, and there was mourning.
We place a star on top to adorn.
A star shone brightly when Jesus was born.
The gifts for our families lay around the tree.
The disciples gathered around asking, “How could this be?”
For our children, it brings toys and maybe a game.
His tree brought Jesus suffering and shame.
So when you decorate your Christmas tree,
Think of the One who made all the prophecies come to be.
His Gift was not a toy truck, a wagon or doll.
On His tree, Jesus gave His life, the greatest Gift of all.

Legend of the Robin (Christmas Version)
As Jesus lay in the manger, the robin saw the fire needed to stay lit to keep the baby Jesus warm. The little bird flew down to the fire and flapped its little wings to keep the embers glowing throughout the night. As a reminder of its gift, the little robin was given a red breast…reddened by the fire.

The Nativity / Manger / Creche
What is often called a manger is more appropriately known as the Crèche or Nativity Scene. The manger is actually the feeding trough for animals. There was no crib for the Christ Child; so, He was laid in a manger lined with hay. People often refer to the Stable as the manger...

It only makes sense that the Family’s Nativity Scene be blessed when it is set up or before Christmas.

In 1223, St. Francis of Assisi celebrated the first Feast of the Nativity. The Feast has continued from that day forward. St. Francis based his Feast on two early celebrations, the first dating from Pope Liberius (352-366) and the second from Pope Gregory III (731-741).

In the early years, a consecrated host was laid in the Manger just as the Christ Child had lain in the manger in Bethlehem. By the 16th Century, the Crèche was no longer confined to the Church, as Catholics in Germany started erecting small crèches (Kristkribbe) under their own Christmas trees in their homes.

Wreath Legends & Meanings

Legend of the Shepherd Boy and the Wreath
A poor boy had no gift to give the Holy Child; so he made a tiny crown of leaves from a Holly Bush.
Compared to the expensive gifts the others had given, the crown was of little value. The little shepherd boy began to cry as he presented, but when the Babe touched the Holly crown with His tiny hand, the leaves suddenly gleamed and the teardrops turned to scarlet berries.
Through the centuries, the Holly wreath became a traditional Christmas decoration, reminding us of the Miracle of Christ’s Birth. 

The Meaning of the Wreath                                                            
The wreath represents the crown of Christ who is King of our world. It also symbolizes the “Crown of Thorns” which Jesus wore at the time of his death. It’s an evergreen to symbolize Jesus’ unchanging, eternal love for us. It is a circle to show that God has no beginning and no ending.

Legend of the Poinsettia

The Poinsettia was named for Joel Robert Poinsett, a native of South Carolina. Poinsett was serving as an ambassador in Mexico when he came across the Poinsettia. In 1829, he sent some home from Mexico to South Carolina, where they did very well in his greenhouse.

According to legend, the origin of the poinsettia was as follows: a poor Mexican girl and her brother were on their way to church on Christmas Eve but had nothing to give the Christ child. They gathered weeds and made them into a small bouquet. The other children made fun of their gift. When they laid the branches at the manger in the church, the weeds were miraculously transformed into bright red and white leaves that we know as the poinsettia.

A variation of the legend speaks of a poor child, who prayed for a gift to present to the Christ child. As he knelt at the altar saying his prayers, bright red and green plants grew up at his feet.

Another legend says, as the Star of Bethlehem shone on the earth, the earth responded by producing a plant that mirrored the star’s beauty. The flower was star shaped with white petals and a golden star center. On the day that Christ died on the cross, the white petals turned red to remember Jesus’ blood and some remained white to remember the purity of his sacrifice.
Regardless of which legend you fancy, the general shape of the plant and the arrangement of leaves are seen as a symbol of the Star of Bethlehem which led the wise men to the baby Jesus. The red colored leaves symbolize the blood of Christ. The white leaves represent his purity.

 Holly Legends (Christmas Version)

Christian legend says one winter night, the holly miraculously grew leaves out of season in order to hide the Holy Family from Herod’s soldiers. Since then, it has been an evergreen as a token of Christ’s gratitude…

One night as the holy family was fleeing to Egypt, Joseph heard the soldiers riding behind them. Since there were no rocks or caves to hide in, the family hid beneath the branches of a holly bush. Normally, the bush would not have offered much shelter since it had lost all its leaves in the fall. But that night the holly miraculously pushed forth its leaves and grew sharp thorns to hide the family. Since then the holly has borne leaves all year long.
Christmas Holly Poem…                          
When Christ was born in Bethlehem on that first Christmas night
A barren bush outside the stable blossomed full and bright
It bore a grim reminder of the crown He’d one day wear
It’s prickly leaves foretold the thorns of sorrow He would bear
Amidst the green there grew strange fruit - small berries scarlet red
As crimson as the blood our Savior was to shed
In honor of the Prince of Peace
A flower pure and white
Blossomed sweetly when the Lord was
born that holy Christmas night.
~ Author unknown ~
Holly is truly a Christmas tradition. Holly is an evergreen with waxy leaves that resist water loss when the soil is frozen in winter. This is why it does not wither when brought indoors as a Christmas decoration.
Another legend about Christmas holly says a little orphan boy was living with the shepherds when the angels came to announce the birth of the newborn King. Having no gift for the baby, the child wove a crown of holly branches for its head. But when he laid it before Christ, he became ashamed of its poverty and began to cry. Miraculously, Jesus touched the crown and it began to sparkle while the orphan’s tears turned into beautiful scarlet berries.

Mary's Special Gift
by Tara Lee Davis from the website of the Humane Society of Ottawa 

Many of us are familiar with the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. The story many people don’t know about is Mary, Baby Jesus, and a very special Tabby Cat.

On the night Jesus was born, many animals stood silently by – the quiet oxen, the patient donkey and horses, the nesting does, the gentle dogs and another young mother, a beautiful tabby cat.

The young cat was nearby contentedly nursing her young, making sure all her kittens were clean and fed. After their tummies were full, she carefully licked their little faces clean and gently carried them all one by one to the barn’s loft to rest for the night. The young mother cat settled down next to her kittens and softly purred a mother’s lullaby to put all her six babies to sleep.

In the barn the gentle silence of the night was broken by the cries of Jesus.

Mary rocked her child gently in her arms trying to comfort Him and bring sleep to her precious son, but baby Jesus wouldn’t sleep. He cried and was restless.

Mary laid Jesus in the manger and tried gently singing to Him hoping this would please Him and He would sleep.

Upstairs in the loft with all her kittens asleep the young tabby cat tiptoed across the loft to see what all the commotion was about. After all, it was only one baby not six!

Looking down into the manger the little cat saw baby Jesus crying and Mary helpless as to her son’s needs. Why would Jesus not sleep and how could she help him?

Quietly the little cat climbed down from the loft and padded softly towards the manger where Jesus lay. Ever so gently, the little tabby placed her delicate paws on the edge of the manger; there she stood looking at Jesus with wide green eyes.
With a tender meow she turned to Mary and Mary smiled. With this the little tabby cat leapt up gingerly into the manger and settled down next to Jesus and gently purred a soft mother cat’s lullaby that soothed her tiny kittens and slowly baby Jesus too quietly drifted off to sleep.

Grateful for the little cat’s help, Mary gently picked up the little tabby cat and cradled her in her arms. The little tabby cat continued to purr and gently licked Mary’s hand.

Mary lifted the little tabby cat up and with a smile quietly said, “From one new mother to another, I thank you.” Mary gave the little tabby a kiss on the forehead.

To this day, all Tabby cats around the world will always carry an “M” on their forehead as a mark of the kiss that Mary gave to all tabbies as a special gift for their special part they played in the life of Jesus.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The 12 Days of Christmas

The Christmas standard, “The Twelve Days of Christmas”, is to most a rambling of strange ‘gifts’, which tests our memory. However, “The Twelve Days of Christmas” had a more solemn intention with significance beyond the seemingly trite ‘gifts.’
The English had begun writing Christmas carols in the 15th century, but when the Puritans came to power they suppressed both Christmas and its carols. After Christmas was restored in England, festive songs praising the occasion were written, but the only legal church was the state church – Church of England. Between 1558, the year Queen Elizabeth I ascended the throne, and 1829, when George IV was king, Catholics in England were forbidden from any practice of their faith by law – public and private. It was, at that time, illegal to be Catholic punishable by imprisonment or execution.
During this dark time, Catholics looked for ways to preserve their faith and teach their children basic doctrine without being caught. Catholic parents used nonsense songs, including “The 12 Days of Christmas,” that would not arouse suspicion in non-Catholics but would remind the children of their faith. For this reason, “The Twelve Days of Christmas” was memorized and passed down from one generation to the next before it was ever recorded in writing. What we think of as a silly song today was popular two centuries ago during this dismal period as a Catechism song, a memory aid.
First appearing in England around 1780, “The Twelve Days of Christmas” was devised to allow Roman Catholics to practice their faith without fear of punishment. This was during a time when music and poetry was often used to express ideas contrary to what the law allowed. In this way, although the real meanings have mostly been lost to us today, Mother Goose rhymes were disguised political commentaries in the days before so-called ‘free speech’.
Each ‘gift’ had, in reality, a hidden meaning intended to help young Catholics learn one of the tenets of their faith. So, as Christmas has become a ‘holiday for the children’, we should all return to our childhood. In this way, we may learn the true meaning behind each of the ‘gifts’ of “The Twelve Days of Christmas”, and, in addition, learn the true meaning of Christmas and our faith, as children of old once did!
To begin, we need to know when the twelve days of Christmas are. In this day of advertising and Christmas sales and shopping, most people believe the twelve days lead up to Christmas Day, but this is a misinterpretation. The period leading up to Christmas is, actually, the Advent season, not the Christmas season. Instead, it benefits retailers if they can get people shopping ahead of the season; hence, winter coats appear in the fall, spring fashions in the winter, bathing suits in spring and back-to-school in summer. They are, then, being consistent when they sell Easter dresses during Lent or decorate for Christmas in Advent. So, remember, merchants have sales and decorate for what is coming, not what is happening!
In the Church, as in the Jewish Synagogue, the day technically begins at sunset. Therefore, Christmas begins at sundown on December 24th, which we call ‘Christmas Eve.’ The Christmas season, then, begins on Christmas Eve and ends with Epiphany. The twelve days of Christmas are, then, December 26th through January 6th.  Epiphany, the traditional day for celebrating the coming of the three wise men to worship Jesus and bring Him gifts, begins on the twelfth night after Christmas; so, Epiphany was known as Twelfthnight in England.

In “The Twelve Days of Christmas”, each of the 12 verses camouflages a religious theme…
My True Love does not refer to an earthly suitor, it, in fact, refers to God, Himself.
Me, who receives the strange sequence of ‘gifts’, refers to every baptized person or the Church.

1. On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me a partridge in a pear tree…
The Partridge is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Christ is symbolically represented by a mother partridge, who will feign injury to distract predators away from her defenseless nestlings, and even, if necessary, give up her life for her children. This is a reminder of Christ’s expression of sadness over the fate of Jerusalem: “Jerusalem! Jerusalem! How often would I have sheltered thee under my wings, as a hen does her chicks, but thou wouldst not have it so…” (Luke 13:34)
The Pear Tree is a reminder of the cross.
There fore…on the 1st day, God gave me the gift of Jesus on the Cross for the sins of the world
2. On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me two turtle doves…
Two Turtle Doves are The Old and New Testaments, gifts that each Christian receives, which together bear witness to God’s self-revelation in history and the creation of a people to tell the Story of God to the world.
3. On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me three French hens…
Three French Hens represents the gift of the Three Theological Virtues: 1) Faith, 2) Hope, and 3) Love. When the song was written, only the rich could afford these costly birds. “So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13)
4. On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me four calling birds…
Four Calling Birds symbolizes the gift of The Four Gospels/Evangelists: 1) Matthew, a tax collector in Judea, whom Jesus called to be one of his apostles; 2) Mark, or John Mark, a young boy at the time of Jesus’ ministry, who later teamed up with St. Paul on his first missionary journey; 3) Luke, a Greek physician, and the only non-Jewish writer in the Bible; and 4) John, one of the 12 apostles, who wrote his Gospel many years after Jesus was crucified, while he himself was imprisoned for his faith on the island of Patmos. They proclaim the Good News of God’s reconciliation of the world to Himself in Jesus Christ. As early as the second century, Christian writers sought in Ezekiel’s vision (i, 5 sqq.) and in Apocalypse. (iv, 6-10) symbolical representations of the Four Evangelists. The system which finally prevailed in the Latin Church, consisted in symbolizing St. Matthew by a man (sometimes an angel), St. Mark by a lion, St. Luke by an ox, and St. John by an eagle.
5. On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me five gold rings…
Five Gold Rings denotes the gift of the first Five Books of the Old Testament, known as the Torah or the Pentateuch:  1) Genesis, 2) Exodus, 3) Leviticus, 4) Numbers, and 5) Deuteronomy, which gives the history of humanity’s sinful failure and God’s response of grace in the creation of a people to be a light to the world. Written by Moses, these books contain the early history of the Jews, the Ten Commandments and all the laws derived from them. Revered by the Jews, these books were considered to be worth more than gold, “even much fine gold.” (Psalms 19:9-10).
6. On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me six geese a-laying…
Six Geese A-Laying signifies the six days of creation that confesses God as Creator and Sustainer of the world (Genesis 1). God spoke the word and brought forth life. “And God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, a sixth day.” (Genesis 1:31). Eggs are an almost universal symbol of new life.
7. On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me seven swans a-swimming…
Seven Swans A-Swimming symbolizes the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: 1) prophecy, 2) service/ministry,
3) teaching, 4) encouraging, 5) giving, 6) leadership, and 7) compassion/mercy (Romans 12:6-8; cf. 1 Corinthians 12:8-11).
8. On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me eight maids a-milking…
Eight Maids A-Milking represents the eight Beatitudes of Jesus (Matthew 5:3-10): 1) “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” 2) “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted,” 3) “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth,” 4) “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled,” 5) “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy,” 6) “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God,” 7) “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God,” 8) “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
9. On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me nine ladies dancing…
Nine Ladies Dancing symbolizes the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit: 1) “love,” 2) “joy,” 3) “peace,” 4) “patience,” 5) “kindness,” 6) “generosity/goodness,” 7) “faithfulness,” 8) “gentleness, and” 9) “self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23) 
10. On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me ten lords a-leaping… 
Ten Lords A-Leaping indicates the ten commandments: 1) I am the Lord your God; you shall not have strange gods before me; 2) You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain; 3) Remember to keep holy the Lord’s day; 4) Honor your father and your mother; 5) You shall not kill; 6) You shall not commit adultery; 7) You shall not steal; 8) You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor; 9) You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife; 10) You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods. (Exodus 20:1-17)

11. On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me eleven pipers piping…
Eleven Pipers Piping represents the eleven Apostles who remained faithful to Jesus: 1) “Simon, whom he named Peter;” 2) “his brother Andrew;” 3) “James;” 4) “John;” 5) “Philip;” 6) “Bartholomew;” 7) “Matthew;” 8) “Thomas;” 9) “James, son of Alphaeus;” 10) “Simon, called the Zealot,” 11) “Judas, son of James.” (Luke 6:14-16). The list does not include the twelfth disciple, Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus to the religious leaders and the Romans.
12. On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me twelve drummers drumming…
Twelve Drummers Drumming represents The Twelve points of doctrine in the Apostles’ 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 Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.” 4) “He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell [the grave].” 5) “On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father.” 6) He will come again to judge the living and the dead.” 7) “I believe in the Holy Spirit,” 8) “the holy Catholic Church,” 9) “the communion of saints,” 10) “the forgiveness of sins,” 11) “the resurrection of the body,” 12) “and life everlasting.  Amen”
For years, the ditty helped youngsters learn their Catechism. Then in 1829, the English Parliament legalized Catholicism, and there was no more need to study in secret. Today, ironically, the song is associated only with the secular side of Christmas. Freedom of religion is one of those things you don’t notice much unless it’s gone, but “The 12 Days of Christmas,” which helped keep the faith alive when Catholics weren’t free, is still with us.

Monday, December 19, 2011

St Nicholas (part 3 of 3)

St Nicholas as Santa Claus

Nuns in France supposedly first began leaving treats on St. Nicholas Eve, December 5th, for the small children of poor families. St. Nicholas’ gifts were usually good things to eat: apples, oranges, nuts and eventually cookies and sweets. The custom quickly spread across Europe and was adopted by both rich and poor.

Children around the world know and love St. Nicholas as someone who brings gifts and treats in December. He is known by different names – and even looks different from place to place. It is said that his image of a fat, jolly fellow in a red suit was actually a result of a Coca Cola® ad in 1931! It is the same St. Nicholas, by whatever name or picture, who is said to delight children with gifts and good things to eat. Nicholas gave in secret, alert to others’ needs, and expecting nothing for himself in return. It is this selfless generosity which seeks only the good of the other that made Nicholas’ gifts the type of gifts that are a pale reflection of the gift God gave us in His Son.

Through the centuries St. Nicholas has continued to be venerated by Catholics and Orthodox and honored by Protestants. By his example of generosity to those in need, especially children, St. Nicholas continues to be a model for the compassionate life.

Widely celebrated in Europe, St. Nicholas’ feast day, December 6th, kept alive the stories of his goodness and generosity. December 6th is still the main day for gift giving and merrymaking in much of Europe. In Germany and Poland, boys dressed as bishops begged alms for the poor – and sometimes for themselves! In the Netherlands, St. Nicholas is celebrated on the 5th, the eve of his feast day, by sharing candies (thrown in the door), chocolate initial letters, small gifts, and riddles. Dutch children leave carrots and hay in their shoes for the saint’s horse, hoping St. Nicholas will exchange them for small gifts. As it is told that St. Nicholas arrived in the Netherlands and Belgium on a steamship from Spain, he rode a white horse on his gift-giving rounds. Simple gift-giving in early December helps preserve Christmas Day for celebrating the most important Gift – God’s Gift of the Christ Child (John 3:16).

St. Nick vs. Santa Claus Comparison

So when you see a Santa figure at Christmastime, be sure to share the real story of St. Nick: the man who loved the Lord with all his heart and followed Him faithfully.

Here’s a comparison of the myth and the real man by – J. Rosenthal & C. Myers:

Santa Claus belongs to childhood;
St. Nicholas models for all of life.

Santa Claus, as we know him, developed to boost Christmas sales – the commercial Christmas message;
St. Nicholas told the story of Christ and peace, goodwill toward all – the hope-filled Christmas message.

Santa Claus encourages consumption;
St. Nicholas encourages compassion.

Santa Claus appears each year to be seen and heard for a short time;
St. Nicholas is part of the communion of saints, surrounding us always with prayer and example.

Santa Claus flies through the air – from the North Pole;
St. Nicholas walked the earth – caring for those in need.

Santa Claus, for some, replaces the Babe of Bethlehem;
St. Nicholas, for all, points to the Babe of Bethlehem.

Santa Claus isn’t bad;
St. Nicholas is just better.
St Nicholas with the children

 Have a very merry & blessed Christmas!