“And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14
Dear Redeemer Family:
By the time that you receive this, Christmas will be over. I say this because I am writing it on Christmas Eve. But I need to correct something. Christmas Day will be over, but the Season of Christmas will still be going on. Christmas is not just a day. It is also a season of the Church calendar. And, it runs for 12 days, hence the Christmas carol’s title.
That Christmas carol has some significant symbolic meanings. It carries meanings not just for this season of Christmas, but for the whole of the Church year, and for the understanding of the Christian faith. Ergo, I now enclose a brief history of the song, and the meanings of its symbols.
From 1558 until 1829, Roman Catholics in England were not permitted to practice their faith openly. Someone during that era wrote the carol as a catechism song for young Roman Catholics. It has two levels of meaning: the surface meaning plus a hidden meaning known only to members of their church. Each element in the carol has a code word for a religious reality which the children could remember.
The partridge in a pear tree was Jesus Christ, specifically, Jesus on the cross.
The two turtle doves were the Old and New Testaments.
The three French hens stood for faith, hope and love.
The four calling birds were the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
The five golden rings recalled the Torah or Law, the first five books of the Old Testament.
The six geese a laying stood for the six days of creation.
The seven swans a swimming represented the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit: Prophesy, Serving, Teaching,
Exhortation, Contribution, Leadership, and Mercy.
The eight maids a milking were the eight Beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount.
The nine ladies dancing were the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness,
Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self Control.
The ten lords a leaping were the Ten Commandments.
The eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven faithful disciples.
And the twelve drummers drumming symbolized the twelve points of belief in the Apostles’ Creed.