THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS
by Timothy Cross
I am sure that you have heard the well known Christmas song entitled The Twelve Days of Christmas. The song always seems to be heard during the Christmas season. I confess that I had never really given it much though, as it comes over as nothing more than a frivolous ditty. I revised my opinion last Christmas however when I learned that The Twelve Days of Christmas is actually Christian in origin. It was written during a time of religious persecution when the Faith was driven somewhat underground. Each line of the song contains a hidden Christian meaning, known only to Christians. This enabled the song to be sung in public without fear of arrest, for a non Christian would only know its surface meaning. Let us then delve a little deeper into the seemingly light hearted song The Twelve Days of Christmas.
On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me, a partridge in a pear tree. ‘My true love’ here represents God the Father, and the partridge represents His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the ‘pear tree’ represents the cross of Calvary. A mother partridge, we are told, feigns injury to decoy predators from harming her nestlings. And of course, in His great love, God the Father sent His Son into the world to be the Saviour of sinners, delivering them from eternal harm by dying in the place of sinners. 1 John 4:10 reminds us ‘In this is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.’
On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me, two turtle doves. These two turtle doves represent the Old and New Testament which comprise the Bible. The Old and New Testaments are the two lips by which God speaks to us. They are infallible and inerrant. They are inspired by God’s Holy Spirit and reveal the Creator’s secret of a happy life, a happy death and a happy eternity.
On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me, three French hens.These represent the three theological virtues of ‘faith, hope and love’ (1 Corinthians 13:13). Faith means trusting and relying on God. Hope is a confident assurance and expectation that God will be true to His promises. Love for God and love for our fellow believers is a virtue enjoined frequently in the New Testament.
On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me, four calling birds.The four calling birds here represent the four Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The Bible gives us four written portraits of the one Christ. Matthew portrays Him as the King of the Jews – the long awaited Messiah. Mark portrays Him as the Servant of the Lord. Luke portrays Him as the Saviour of sinners. John portrays Him as the eternal Son of God Who became man. All four Gospels major disproportionately on the death of Christ at Calvary. It is by the death of Christ, not His live, that sinners are reconciled to God.
On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me, five gold rings.These five gold rings represent the first five books of the Bible – the Pentateuch – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. The theme of these five books is Creation, the Fall and Redemption. They tell us of our origins. They tell us how sin has spoiled the world. They tell us that the way back to God is by the blood sacrifice He has ordained – the blood sacrifices of the Old Testament all prefigured and foreshadowed the one sacrifice of Christ in the New.
On the sixth day of Christmas my true love gave to me, six geese a-laying.The six laying geese here represent the six days of creation as revealed in Genesis 1. The Bible teaches that Almighty God is the creator and sustainer of the universe. He spoke the world into existence in six days, and rested on the seventh. ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth’ (Genesis 1:1).
On the seventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me seven swans a-swimming.These seven swimming swans represent the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit in Romans 12:6,7, namely: prophecy, service, teaching, exhortation, giving, helping and acts of mercy. The risen Christ, by His Spirit, bestows these gifts on His church for her welfare and edification. Whilst every Christian does not have all the gifts of the Spirit, every Christian has at least one of the gifts by which they can be a blessing to the church, which is the body of Christ. Paul’s exhortation to Timothy is an exhortation to every Christian: ‘Do not neglect the gift you have ...’ (1Timothy 4:14).
On the eighth day of Christmas my true love gave to me, eight maids a-milking.The eight milking maids are the eight ‘Beatitudes’ with which the Lord Jesus opened His famous ‘Sermon on the Mount’ – commonly known as the greatest sermon ever preached. The key to the Beatitudes is the first one: ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’ (Matthew 5:3). True blessedness is a result of realising our spiritual poverty and need, and casting ourselves on God in Christ for mercy.
On the ninth day of Christmas my true love gave to me, nine ladies dancing.These nine dancing ladies represent the nine-fold ‘fruit of the Spirit’ enunciated in Galatians 5:22,23 – ‘the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.’ The Holy Spirit of Christ gradually transforms Christians into the likeness of Christ. The process is known as sanctification. Fruit can take time to ripen, but by the grace of God, all who belong to Jesus will surely ripen more and more into His character.
On the tenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me, ten lords a-leaping.The ten leaping lords represent the Ten Commandments, as delivered by God to Moses at Mount Sinai. The Ten Commandments are the Maker’s instructions. They are a summary of the moral law. They reveal God’s will, and they convict us of our sin and drive us to Christ for salvation. They also show us how to please God. If we love Him, and if we have been saved by His grace, we will endeavour to keep His commandments.
On the eleventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me, eleven pipers piping.Jesus chose twelve disciples, corresponding to the twelve tribes of Israel. Of these twelve, only eleven were faithful. One, Judas Iscariot, betrayed Him.
On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me, twelve drummers drumming.This final line of the song was intended to be a surreptitious reminder of the twelve lines of the Apostles’ Creed. The Apostles Creed is an early summary of the faith of the Bible – the Trinitarian Faith in God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. ‘The Faith which was once for all delivered to the saint’ (Jude 3). The Apostles’ Creed is distinctly Trinitarian as the Christian Faith is distinctly Trinitarian. A Christian is one who has been saved by God the Holy Trinity – ‘chosen and destined by God the Father and sanctified by the Spirit for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with His blood’ (1 Peter 1:2).
So there you have The Twelve Days of Christmas. It comes over as a jolly song, and somewhat light hearted. But there is more to it than meets the eye. Once we know its hidden meaning, we will never sing or hear it in the same way again.
Happy Christmas!Last Update: 2013-08-12 16:41