The Twelve Days of Christmas

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Credit: Wikipedia

One tradition I particularly enjoy during the Christmas season is singing carols and songs. One of my favorites is The Twelve Days of Christmas.

The carol has its roots in 18th-century England. Several theories exist regarding the meaning of the lyrics. One suggests the song was a memory-and-forfeit game sung by British children. In the game, players had to remember all the previous verses and add a new verse at the end. Those unable to remember a verse paid a forfeit, a kiss or a piece of candy, to the others.

Another theory connects the carol to the era when Catholicism was outlawed in England, 1558-1829. That source says the carol was a song to help young Catholics learn the faith, which could not be openly practiced in Anglican society.  Here are the verses with their suggested meaning, according to that interesting but unsubstantiated theory:

  • A Partridge in a Pear Tree – Jesus Christ
  • Two Turtle Doves – The Old and New Testaments
  • Three French Hens – The three virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity
  • Four Calling/Collie Birds – Four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John
  • Five Golden Rings – First five books of the Old Testament
  • Six Geese-a-Laying – Six days of creation before God’s rest on the seventh day
  • Seven Swans-a-Swimming – Seven gifts of the Holy Spirit
  • Eight Maids-a-Milking – Eight Beatitudes
  • Nine Ladies Dancing – Nine fruits of the Holy Spirit
  • Ten Lords-a-Leaping – Ten Commandments
  • Eleven Pipers Piping – Eleven faithful disciples
  • Twelve Drummers Drumming -Twelve points of belief in the Apostles’ Creed

The Twelve Days of Christmas refer to the 12-day period from Dec. 25, celebrated as the birth of Jesus, to the day before Epiphany, which is actually celebrated on Jan. 6 as the day when the three kings/wise men visited the baby Jesus.

Regardless of which explanation you choose to accept, observing the Twelve Days of Christmas is a good way to extend our remembrance of the birth of Jesus, the reason for the season!

Merry Twelve Days of Christmas!

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Christmas Cards and Greetings

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It’s that time of year when our mailbox is the recipient of scores of Christmas cards and greetings. Terry and I enjoy reading every one of them and place them in a special receptacle on the hearth of our fireplace. They are warm reminders of friends we’ve made throughout the years.

Your mailbox probably also receives Christmas cards and letters. Those of you who know us may be wondering why one of the greetings you receive does not come from us.

The reason is quite simple. Over the nearly 53 years we’ve been married, Terry and I have been blessed with a formidable number of friends. The question is who should be included on our Christmas card list and who should be omitted. We have found no easy answer.

To include everyone we consider our friends, the printing, signing, addressing, stuffing, sealing, stamping, and mailing of Christmas cards would be a huge task. And Terry would find it difficult to resist the inclination to add a personal note to each one. Sending electronic greeting cards is an option but we have not yet been persuaded to go in that direction.

Instead, over the years we’ve discovered great joy in redirecting to our favorite charitable causes the money we would otherwise spend on Christmas cards and letters.  Accordingly, please consider this article our way of saying we love you and thank God for you.

Terry and I are well, enjoying the special blessings of good health and happiness. Our daughter Angie, her husband Todd, our grandson Kolby, our granddaughter Kayla, and our son Andrew are all doing fine and bring us great joy. We love them dearly and thank God for each of them.

My mother Elda is still here at the tender age of 102 years, 8 months, and 10 days. She prays every day to go to heaven to be with Jesus and her dear husband Martin, my Dad, who has a 36 year head start. We tell her that Jesus is not yet ready for her but that she gets closer each day.

We’ve been in our “new” home in Georgetown, Tex. 3 ½ years. It’s a new residential area in the country but still close to town. Our neighbors are wonderful people who love to socialize and genuinely care for one another. We are some of the most senior citizens in our subdivision, yet Terry and I find great joy in sharing Christian love and concern. We’re not alone in doing so.

So please accept this sincere and heartfelt greeting, with its mercifully brief personal and family update, along with our prayers for a blessed Christmas celebration of the birth of baby Jesus!

Correction

Oops!

Thursday’s Perspectives article was discovered to have a faulty link to:

  • Life, Love, Faith, Family by Jerry Kieschnick (CPH) — Perspectives from a veteran church leader

Try this link:

https://www.cph.org/p-32843-life-love-faith-family-perspectives-from-a-veteran-church-leader.aspx

Please accept my apology for any inconvenience. Many blessings!

Necessities of Life and Financial Priorities

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Before getting into this topic, here are two recently published books for your consideration:

  • How Long, O Lord, How Long? by Dale Kreienkamp (Tenth Power) — The unemployment journey
  • Life, Love, Faith, Family by Jerry Kieschnick (CPH) — Perspectives from a veteran church leader

Dale, a friend of mine, shares both practical and spiritual insights on life after losing a job. Most of you know the other author. My book is available at www.cph.org/p-32843-life-love-faith-family-perspectives-from-a-veteran-church-leader.aspx. Dale’s is at howlongolord.org. Take a look at both.

Providing the necessities of life requires paying attention to financial realities people face every day. Should I buy the Lexus or the Lamborghini? The Maserati or the Mazda? The Starbucks Toasted White Chocolate Mocha for $6.00 or the McDonald’s Peppermint Mocha for $2.00? You get the picture.

Perhaps except for the wealthiest among us, people are cost conscious, to a greater or lesser degree. But many people around the world have never even thought about decisions like those above. They are concerned about the necessities of life and can’t even begin to think about the luxuries, even if they knew they existed. In many cases that is highly doubtful.

In a recent sermon I said: Making decisions about what to eat and what to wear are first world issues. Many folks in third world countries have only one choice and it’s not made from a full cupboard or a multi-wardrobe closet. Their choice is often: “Do I beg for food on the street or go to the dump to try to fill my empty stomach?” And “Do I wear my one pair of pants and my one shirt before or after I wash them in the Ganges River?” By the way, the levels of fecal coliform bacteria from human waste in the waters of that river near Varanasi are more than 100 times the Indian government’s official limit.

The topic of necessities of life became even more vivid for me when I read an Aug. 25, 2018 article in The Wall Street Journal: Pet Insurance Not So Niche Anymore. It stated, among other things:

  • In 2017 Americans spent $17 billion on routine veterinary care for cats and dogs
  • Pet accidents or illnesses can greatly increase veterinary costs
  • The old method of repairing a dog’s torn cranial cruciate ligament (canine ACL) costs $1,200
  • Setting the bone and putting in a plate to make the knee as good as new costs $4,500
  • In the face of such rising costs, Americans spent $1 billion for pet insurance in 2017
  • These policies cover only 1% of the 94.2 million cats and 89.7 million dogs Americans own
  • With 12 million puppies and kittens being born every year, that number will explode

While it may be difficult to consider all pets a necessity of life, they are often very significant in people’s lives. For example, service dogs, comfort dogs, seeing-eye and guide dogs, owned by people who live alone, especially the elderly, are among the animals who play a very important and necessary role. Cat owners could probably articulate better than I how the feline species fills significant roles as well.

Puppies and kittens are God’s gifts to mankind. Yet spending billions to care for them in the face of worldwide poverty causes one to scratch one’s head about necessities of life and financial priorities. That’s particularly true as Christmas approaches. Especially during this season, Terry and I are acutely aware of the people and possessions God has entrusted to our care. He has blessed us with the necessities of life and many of the wants. Thanking him as good stewards is our Christian privilege.

+George Herbert Walker Bush+

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On Friday, November 30, the 41st President of the United States died at the age of 94 years, five months, and 18 days. He was born in Milton, Mass., and died at home in Houston, Tex.

At the time of his death he was the third-longest-lived vice president, and the longest-lived president in U.S. history. Since the day he died, U.S. news sources have highlighted his career and family, including wife Barbara, who passed away earlier this year; son George W. Bush, 43rd U.S. President; and son Jeb Bush, former Florida Governor. George H.W.’s personal life was accentuated by boating and parachuting activities that extended into his ninth decade.

President Bush was raised in the Episcopal Church and expressed his faith publicly in numerous ways, including his Thousand Points of Light speech, his support for prayer in public schools, and his pro-life views. His faith was also reflected in the music he chose for the arrival of his body in Washington D.C. to lie in state at the U.S. Capitol. The selections played by a military band were Beautiful Savior and A Mighty Fortress is Our God.

People of all ages and physical conditions waited for hours in the Washington cold to enter the Rotunda. Memorable sights were many, including a Boy Scout standing at attention and saluting for an extended period of time; 95-year old former U.S. Senator Robert Dole, in a wheelchair, with great effort standing and saluting the casket with a crippled left hand; and numerous world famous professional sports and political figures.

Yesterday the casket was moved to Washington National Cathedral for a memorial service clearly reflecting President Bush’s Christian faith. The service featured powerful Christ centered preaching, with numerous inspirational hymns and dynamic choral presentations. It was seasoned with both serious reflections and humorous comments from family members and political personalities.

Another memorial service will be held today at 10:00 a.m. CST at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston. From there his body will be transported to College Station, Tex., where he will be laid to rest at the Bush Library on the campus of Texas A & M University next to his wife Barbara and their three-year-old daughter Pauline Robinson Bush (Robin), who died of leukemia 65 years ago.

Of particular note to me this week have been the broad and non-partisan expressions of respect and even love for this man, particularly at a time of hugely partisan political division in America. It was also quite encouraging to hear again the clear expressions of his Christian faith.

The New York Times reported: His [Bush’s] longtime friend and former Secretary of State, James A. Baker III, arrived at his Houston home on Friday morning to check on him. Mr. Bush suddenly grew alert, his eyes wide open. “Where are we going, Bake?” he asked. “We’re going to heaven,” Mr. Baker answered. “That’s where I want to go,” Mr. Bush said. Barely 13 hours later, Mr. Bush was dead.

Fox News Sunday reported: Baker, who called Bush his best friend, discussed his peaceful final day. “He had a very gentle and peaceful passing,” Baker said.  “They made arrangements for all of his children to call in to in effect tell him goodbye. His son former President George W. Bush called in to say ‘Dad, I love you, I will see you on the other side’ and President Bush said ‘I love you, too’ and those were his last words. He had a very gentle and easy passing, the kind we ought to all hope we have.”

Guy Benson, Political Editor for Townhall.com, concluded: Death is an inevitability, so perhaps this is the best way to go: Saying final, loving goodbyes to everyone who matters in your life before dying at a ripe old age, after living an incredibly full and consequential life. Bush was a war hero, a Congressman from Texas, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Republican National Committee Chairman, Director of the CIA, Vice President of the United States, and President of the United States.

And I add: “George Herbert Walker Bush, rest in peace. Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Important Facts to Remember as You Grow Older

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A Facebook friend posted the following thoughts, probably not original:

  1. Death is the number one killer in the world.
  2. Life is sexually transmitted.
  3. Good health is merely the slowest possible rate at which one can die.
  4. Give a person a fish and you feed them for a day. Teach a person to use the Internet and they won’t bother you for weeks, months, maybe years.
  5. Health nuts are going to feel stupid someday, lying in the hospital, dying of nothing.
  6. All of us could take a lesson from the weather. It pays no attention to criticism.
  7. In the 60s, people took acid to make the world weird. Now the world is weird, and people take Prozac to make it normal.
  8. Don’t worry about old age; it doesn’t last that long.

Obviously my friend had his tongue at least partially embedded in his cheek. Some of these are more humorous than others. Yet within the humor lies one basic truth. We are mortal, finite human beings. Our human life had a beginning. It will also have an ending.

King David says it like this: “We are here for only a moment, visitors and strangers in the land as our ancestors were before us. Our days on earth are like a passing shadow, gone so soon without a trace.” 1 Chron. 29:15

For Christians, that’s not the end of the story. At the death of his close friend Lazarus, Jesus said: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies. And whoever who lives and believes in me will never die.” John 11:25-26

To some, that’s double talk. How can someone die and yet never die? That’s the mystery of death, solved only by the promise of eternal life through faith in Christ. For when a person dies, he/she takes off his/her body and moves to another existence. In that new heaven and new earth (Rev. 21:1) that person’s life never ends.

That’s a truth worth living for … a truth worth dying for … a promise to remember as you grow older.

Thanksgiving

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Today I share with you this story (http://www.apples4theteacher.com/holidays/thanksgiving/short-stories/religious-thanksgiving.html):

Thanksgiving by Bruce Wright

What does Thanksgiving mean to you? I hear one boy say, “It means a big dinner.” I think we all agree with him. Who does not welcome and enjoy a good dinner! I hear Mary say, “Thanksgiving means a day off from school.” I guess you are right too. School is not such a charming place that girls and boys are unwilling to have an occasional holiday.

Now I am going to ask some of the older people what the day means to them. There is a young woman, a stenographer. She says, “Thanksgiving means a day away from the office. I’m at the office every day except Sunday, and I do appreciate, now and then, a day that’s really my own.”

Yonder is a traveling salesman. “What does Thanksgiving mean to you?” He says, “It means a day at home. Last year I spent one hundred and sixty-nine nights away from home. I have three children. I should like to see them every day. There are times when many days pass and I do not see them. Thanksgiving week I plan to be at home.”

There are others I could ask. Each has his or her answer. But Thanksgiving has a special meaning for us. It is the harvest time. I have here an apple. Isn’t this a beautiful apple? What color! Who mixed the paints, who handled the brush to give such color to this apple? God. He, in his infinite love and wisdom, has provided, through the unfailing laws of nature, for the growth, sweetness, coloring and beautifying of all the products of the fields. This apple is but one of many kinds of fruits.

Praise, then, is the great meaning of Thanksgiving. God, our heavenly Father, sends us every good gift. From his bountiful hand come our daily and nightly mercies. We should praise him every day. But the day for the united chorus of praise is Thanksgiving.

Psalm 150: 6: “Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord.”

Hymn 892 (Lutheran Service Book):

Come, ye thankful people, come; raise the song of harvest home.
All be safely gathered in, ere the winter storms begin.
God, our maker doth provide for our wants to be supplied.
Come to God’s own temple, come; raise the song of harvest home.

Terry and I pray for each of you a Blessed Thanksgiving!