Daily Devotional – January 2
Written by: Yolanda S. Caldwell
Scripture: Galatians 5:22-23
Today in traditional Christian calendars is the ninth Day of Christmas, the season we celebrate the birth of Christ. In a few days it will be Epiphany, the time we celebrate the Magi arriving and the revelation of Christ’s divinity to the world. I don’t know exactly where the Three Kings were on the ninth day after Jesus’ birth, but we do know they were bearing gifts. This is why gifts are traditional at Christmas time. In fact, in many cultures, the Christmas gifts are exchanged at Epiphany, not on Christmas Eve or Day.
This always reminds me of the popular Christmas song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” There are many theories on when the lyrics to this song were written, but most experts believe it was in the late 18th century. There were even a few people who suggested, in the 1970s and 80s, that the lyrics had some very important Christian significance. They theorized that the lyrics were a kind of coded catechism lesson for Catholic children to learn the precepts of their faith in secret, as practicing Catholicism was outlawed in some places. Each day’s gift had a corresponding catechism meaning. For example, the partridge in the pear tree was supposed to symbolize Christ, the two turtle doves were the Old and New Testaments, the three French hens represented faith, hope and love, etc. Of course, this theory has been debunked, since the precepts could apply to Protestant faiths, as well as Catholics, so there would have been no need for the secrecy.
Now, when I hear that song, and it mentions the gift of today, the ninth Day of Christmas, I don’t think of nine ladies dancing… I think of the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit. I have varying degrees of difficulty growing these fruits, especially self-control, but somehow it seems a lot easier during the Christmas season. I think people are more loving, more patient, gentler, more faithful during this season. The word “Peace” is everywhere, and most days, it is almost enough to outweigh all the negativity and catastrophes all over the world.
But what, exactly, do they mean? How do we judge whether we are cultivating these fruits in our lives? I think goodness and kindness surely are not some feel-good, emotional attributes, but a call to action. The recent pandemic and the natural disasters have made me think of how many people have never been exposed to or been the recipients of goodness and kindness, and of how many people need it. Now, more than ever, the world needs for me to be kind and good, and to me, a lot of it means giving… not traditional Christmas gifts, but gifts that will help alleviate the bad things that the world is enduring. The list is endless, but poverty, hunger and natural disasters come to mind immediately.
Prayer: Dear God, thank you for this Christmas season, when we celebrate your Son’s birth. There is always so much joy and feeling of peace during this time, and we thank you for that. As we approach the season of Epiphany, when we celebrate the gifts of the Magi and the revelation to the world of your divinity, help us to allow your Holy Spirit to grow the fruits of the Spirit in us, so that we may be known by them all year round. Help us to translate these fruits into action, by prayer and giving, in order to aid those in dire need. In Jesus’ name. Amen.