When we lived in Switzerland a family in our church started a tradition of hosting a Christmas party. There was great food and we sang. There were carols and some other Christmas songs, including The Twelve Days of Christmas. The people in the room were divided into twelve groups and each group had to sing the contents of one of the twelve days. The highlight was the host singing “and a partridge in a pear tree.” The poor guy was (and unless he has been blessed by supernatural intervention, probably still is) tone deaf. His rendition had to be heard to be believed.
I’ve had another encounter with the twelve days of Christmas this week in the form of emails from a UK Christian music publisher. The twelve days of Christmas are twelve days of “buy one get one free” (you get to keep one and the other is to give away) offers. Today is day three (and the deal, as you can see, is a Hillsong CD).
Twelve days of Christmas. In November. Really?
No, actually. In fact we still have not even begun Advent.
Traditionally the twelve days of Christmas begin on December 25 (Christmas Day) and run through to January 6 which is Epiphany, or Three Kings Day (Swiss bakers put plastic kings in some of their bread that day – caused quite a stir at a communion service in our church one year!) The four weeks running up to December 25 make up Advent, a season of waiting and anticipation of the coming of Christ. Some churches mark Advent by lighting a candle on each of the four Sundays of Advent, a good way to counter the idea that Advent is all about finding pieces of chocolate behind a cardboard window, and a way of keeping the reason for the season in focus.
Advent starts this Sunday. Personally, it gives me the chance to make use of one of last year’s Christmas gifts – “God is in the Manger”, a collection of Advent and Christmas reflections from Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
On the subject of Christmas, and how churches celebrate it, you may want to read a recent article by Keith Getty where he talks about Christmas carols (his and Kristyn’s latest album is a collection of Christmas music).
He has this bit of advice for worship leaders (and pastors and anyone involved in planning Christmas church services):
We would do well as worship leaders to remember that non-churchgoers are far more inclined to attend a church service during the Christmas season where songs are easy and enjoyable to sing rather than a church trying to put on the slickest possible show. The music of carols, written by some of the finest hymn writers of all time (such as Wesley, Watts and Rossetti) and arranged by equally outstanding composers (Handel, Holst and Mendelssohn) speaks for itself. We have wonderful songs to use! And Christmas gives us a wide open door to use those songs to impact culture like no other time of the year.
If you are involved in planning our church’s Christmas services, give this some thought.
You can read the whole article here.
And while you are there, check out the new CD – Joy, an Irish Christmas. Don’t worry, you are allowed to listen to Christmas music before December!