The Twelfth Day of Christmas
Scripture Reading: Luke 2:8-16 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about." So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.
Reflection: Over the past twelve days we have learned much about the numbers in the Bible. We have also referenced those numbers to the Christmas Carol, "The Twelve Days of Christmas." Many people believe the song was written as a catechism song for young Catholics. The hidden meanings of the song's gifts were intended to help the children remember lessons of their faith. Some think the "true love" mentioned in the song refers to God Himself. The "me" who receives the presents is symbolic of every saved person. The partridge in a pear tree is Jesus Christ.
The meaning of the other symbols, have been thought to be:
Ø Two turtle doves - the Old and New Testaments;
Ø Three French hens - Faith, Hope and Charity;
Ø Four calling birds - the four Gospels;
Ø Five golden rings - the first five books of the Old Testament
Ø Six geese a-laying - the six days of creation;
Ø Seven swans a-swimming - seven motivational gifts of the Holy Spirit;
Ø Eight maids a-milking - the eight Beatitudes;
Ø Nine ladies dancing - nine fruits of the Holy Spirit;
Ø Ten lords a-leaping - the Ten Commandments;
Ø Eleven pipers piping - the eleven faithful disciples;
Ø Twelve drummers drumming - the twelve points of belief in the Apostles' Creed
Others think the song has no spiritual meaning. But through these devotionals we have learned that the numbers in Scripture have meaning beyond themselves for the purpose of pointing us toward the true meaning of Christmas, the Lord Jesus Christ. Today, we will look at the number twelve.
Twelve is a perfect number, signifying perfection of government, or of governmental perfection. It is found as a multiple in all that has to do with rule. The sun which "rules" the day and the moon and stars which "govern" the night, do so by their passage through the twelve constellations above the earth which completes the great circle of the heavens of 360 (12 x 30) degrees, and thus govern the year.
There were twelve patriarchs from Seth to Noah and his family, and twelve from Shem to Jacob. The Scripture tells of twelve tribes of Israel. Then there were twelve Judges who led the Nation of Israel. In Solomon’s Temple the number twelve is predominate, in contrast with the Tabernacle, in which the number five stood out. This agrees with the grace which shines in the Tabernacle, and with the glory of the kingdom which is displayed in the Temple. There were twelve stones in the High Priest's breastplate, twelve stones taken out of the Jordan and twelve spies who invaded Canaan all speaking to the Divine Perfect Foundation, the Lord Jesus Christ.
When we come to the New Testament we find the same great picture. The woman in Matthew 9 had been hemorrhaging twelve years (representing the Old Covenant) and the ruler’s daughter who died was twelve years old (representing the New Covenant). Jesus healed the former (fulfilling the law) and raised the latter from the dead (His own resurrection).
The miracle of the loaves and fishes produced twelve baskets of left overs carried by twelve disciples speaking to the Lord Jesus being the Bread of Life. Finally, the glorious vision seen by the Apostle John in Revelation 21:10-14 declares that Jesus Christ is the King of kings and the Lord of lords, “and he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. It had a great, high wall with TWELVE GATES, and with TWELVE ANGELS at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the TWELVE TRIBES of Israel. There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. The wall of the city had TWELVE FOUNDATIONS, and on them were the names of the TWELVE APOSTLES of the Lamb.” Hallelujah!
The Twelfth Day of Christmas is the Festival of the Epiphany.
This festival commemorates the beginning of the proclamation of the gospel—Christ's manifestation to the nations, as shown in three different events: the visit of the Magi, the baptism of Jesus, and the turning of water into wine. At the true end-point of the Christmas season, however, Epiphany sends us into the world to live out the Incarnation, to witness to the light of Christ in the darkness. Following Jesus, we have been baptized into his death and resurrection.
Whether we are called to martyrdom, or to prophetic witness, or simply to faithful living in the joys and sorrows of our daily lives, we live all of our days in the knowledge of our dignity, redeemed through Christ and united to God. We are part of the strange society of people whose world has been turned upside down, and we go out to witness to this topsy-turvy truth: "The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us: and we beheld his glory … and of his fullness have we all received, and grace for grace" (John 1:14, 16).
Prayer: Father, today we celebrate Christmas, the birth of our Lord and Savior; and Your Begotten Son. May we celebrate with friends and family as the angels did with the shepherds that night. May we declare with them: "Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth to all men." Amen.