Christmas is over, headed in a different direction
And now, finally, today, Jan. 5, is the 12th day of Christmas. The meanings of that range from the profound to the silly.
Like the ambitious would-be lover sending his intended those multiple, ridiculous over-the-top gifts? I’m telling you now, if I were the recipient, I might have been OK with a partridge and a pear tree, might have held out for the five golden rings, but the six geese a-layin’ would have tapped on my nerves.Seven swans a swimming would have had me calling the authorities and if that failed to get it stopped, I’d have been unavailable for delivery for the milking maids, dancing ladies, piping pipers, leaping lords and most certainly, definitely, for the 12 drummers drumming.
OK, OK, OK. I know it’s all supposed to be metaphoric. The Christian interpretation is that the 12 drummers drumming signify Christ’s dozen disciples and all the other multiples also have biblical significance.
Now as a young adult, living in the Midwest, I was made aware of the custom that the 12th day of Christmas (Christmas day being the first) was the absolute last day to take down the Christmas decorations. Maybe that’s a throwback to the ruckus and confusion the drumming drummers, leaping lords, piping pipers, mooing cows (being milked by maids) etc. caused.
Or maybe it was just because it was sensible. At some point, you know, you’ve got to move forward. Regardless how you choose to observe, or not observe them, the seasons do and will change – not only in climate, but in heart, mind and soul.
Bottom line on the whole 12th day concept is this: Christmas is over.
Though reared in a Christian, church-going family, well-versed in the Christmas story, I was – oh 40 something – before I understood or was aware (even) of the liturgical church’s observance of Epiphany. Jan. 6, represents the day the kings found the Christ child, by then almost 2 years old, and knew he was “The One” sent by God.
When I taught children’s Sunday school, this was one of my favorite stories to tell, of how these wise men had traveled for many months looking for this miracle, but not sure at any point how, when or where He would be found. They just kept following the same bright star until they arrived at a small unassuming home with their expensive gifts of foreboding import, not needed at the time or ever really wanted.
Really. Incense and oils appropriate to prepare a dead body for the grave? Insightful and eventually helpful I am convinced, I happen to think Frankincense and Myrrh rank up there with the world’s worst baby gifts – ever.
Anyway back to my Sunday school story. I would ask the children to imagine what these sophisticated wise men might do in the presence of this toddling baby intended for a great destiny. Would they bounce him on their knees, fly him at arms’ length over their heads? Would they let him pull their beards and bring them some of his toys – carved objects and wooden blocks his father, a carpenter, had made for him?
Probably, I would say, they would laugh at the baby’s antics and sitting there in that room, the aching tiredness would leave their shoulders. Their fret and worry of the last 18 months or so would magically go away. For the first time in a very, very long time they would know instinctively they were in the right place at the right time, doing what they needed to be doing for the right reason.
The wise men already knew that in the end things were not going to turn out well on earth for that baby, but they understood His purpose and God’s plan, and that gave them a peace and understanding they could hardly describe. I believe they had to hope all the world would somehow come to know that same comfort, joy and peace without fear.
Yes, my story imagines a few details not recorded in the Bible. What the Bible does say is that the wise men left and went a different way than from the one they had come.
And that is my ambition each Jan. 5. My prayer is for the same soul-shaking epiphany the wise men had. Maybe my journey won’t continue so differently, but I pray my awareness will be more acute, that I will become more dedicated and faithful, caring and compassionate, kinder and calmer, patient and tolerant.
That is my same hope for all of us.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Candace Cooksey Fulton is a freelance writer, formerly of Brownwood, living now in San Angelo. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.