The Twelfth Day of Christmas

Welcome to the last day of Christmastide – the Twelfth day, famous for the 12 drummers drumming and Shakespeare’s play Twelfth Night.

In Tudor England the evening of the final day of Christmas was as time for mirth and merriment bordering on the absurd before Christmas decorations were taken down for the feast of Epiphany. Shakespeare’s play Twelfth Night, or What you Will was written for these festivities, which Alison explores below. You’ll also find another prayer of thanksgiving to round out the Christmas season, returning our praise and gratitude for God’s abundant tender mercy that he has lavished upon us, and a Puritan Christmas prayer to close the season. Enjoy Kathy Keller’s article on the post-Christmas Emmanuel, a rich recipe for an Australian Christmas barbecue. We’ll be back tomorrow to wrap up the Twelve Days with the feast of Epiphany.

    Poetry Jono McKeown Make BBQ Prayer Puritan Christmas Play - William Shakespeare

The Eleventh Day of Christmas

Can you believe it? It’s the second Sunday after Christmas, the eleventh day of Christmas, and it’s all nearly over. Most of our family and friends have well and truly moved on from the festive season, but the Christmas Project still has a couple of days of celebrating up its sleeve.

Today’s resources stretch us backwards and forwards in time. There is an ancient sermon from a very very old pope. There is an even more ancient account of God’s work in creation from the book of Proverbs. There is a new poem, pointing forward from Christmas to the days of Jesus as a young boy. There is a dated but wonderful album of children’s Christmas music from the 1990s – the soundtrack of all of my childhood Christmases (and most of my grown-up Christmases too!). And, finally, George Herbert’s famous Christmas poem pulling us through time, inviting us to take our place in the Christmas scene.

 Prayer Second Sunday After  Sermon Leo the Great Music Peter Combe Poetry Caitlin Munday

The Tenth Day of Christmas

The third day of the New Year also marks the third last day of Christmastide. It may well be that after the rush at the end of the year with the sudden change in gear at Christmas that you are feeling tired and exhausted. And after ten days of Christmas feasting, there may well be a fatigue setting in that not even Advent has prepared you for. If that is you, we hope you find today’s resources helpful for taking time to pause and reflect anew on the Christ whose birth we celebrate. From a sermon that was produced under similar circumstances, to an ancient Greek hymn reflecting on the wonder of the nativity, from a recent album release to a Bible reading practice designed to slow you down to think and mediate, take the time this Saturday to ruminate again that God became man.

Also, a New Year also brings with it its own series of habits and practices, least of all the concept of New Year’s Resolutions. This practice has a long history, and was used by Christians in England and North America in the 16th and 17th centuries to stimulate reflection on the year that was and provide direction for growth in the year ahead, particularly as a way of moving from the feasting of Christmas to the return of ‘ordinary time’ that followed Epiphany. If you’re looking for inspiration for your resolutions this year, you may find inspiration with Natasha Moore from New England theologian and pastor Jonathan Edwards over at the Centre for Public Christianity.


The Seventh Day of Christmas

It’s the Seventh Day of Christmas, also known as New Year’s Eve in the Western calendar! We are just over halfway through Christmas now.

Today’s resources include one of my favourite hipster Christmas albums by the Californian band Branches. There are two beautiful poems: a new poem by Lauren Smith and the classic Bleak Mid-winter of Christina Rossetti, so evocative and yet also so foreign for those of us celebrating Christmas in the height of summer. There is a recipe for making ice cream out of fruit if that will help to cool you down.

     Make Icecream

The Fifth Day of Christmas

Today’s collection of resources have a common thread of thanksgiving, hospitality and embrace running through them: Jesus schooling some Pharisees about their lack of hospitality, Simeon and Anna throwing their arms open to welcome the long awaited Messiah, an easy recipe for making lots of pancakes quickly so that you can have friends over for breakfast. You might also like to listen to a favourite sermon I stumbled upon this year – starting with Levi’s feast for Jesus in Luke 5 and moving on to the experiences of the early church to consider how feasting and fasting helps us to love the world we live in now and long for the world to come. It’s common for our Christmas celebrations to be limited to family or close friends. How will you celebrate Christmas and share Jesus-like hospitality with people you don’t know so well? Scripture Luke 14 Prayer General Thanksgiving Sermon Paul Gutacker Music Nunc Dimittis Make Crepes Poetry Dan Anderson

The Third Day of Christmas

St John the Evangelist’s Day

‘On the Third Day of Christmas my true love sent to me… Three French Hens!’

The odds are that today you are doing one of three things:

  • Heading back to your shift work after two jam packed public holidays,
  • Settling into a restful weekend as Christmas Day mania wears off, or
  • Putting up some very large tents in the middle of a caravan park as your beach mission gets under way.

Whatever you are up to, we hope that you have an excellent third day of Christmas and that you get a chance to reflect and celebrate Jesus’ birth for us.

Scripture 1 John 1 Prayer St John Sermon Sam Wells Music Sufjan II Make Jesse Tree Poetry Andrew Cooper

The First Day of Christmas

Merry Christmas!

We hope that your feasting, resting and serving brings many different opportunities to glorify the Lord and grow in him. We hope that God’s people around the world take every opportunity possible this Christmas to share the good news of Jesus with friends and family. We hope that there are lots of warm and welcoming parties and feasts, where we get to receive the things that God has made with thankfulness and share with others. We hope you get some slow time too, sometime over the next twelve days, to sit quietly on your own or with friends, and marvel at the incarnation.

Our collection of resources to help you celebrate continues today with a fresh array of scripture, music and writing. Our first new Christmas poem is published today too: ‘The First Breath In’ by Joanna Hayes. Read the first known Christmas sermon (it’s not very long!) or unwind at the end of a full day to Bach’s Christmas Oratorio.

However you celebrate the First Day of Christmas, remember to share it with others. And please don’t limit that to social media – share your Christmas celebrations in person, face to face, with the people around you!

Scripture Hebrews 1 Prayer Christmas Day Music Bach Poetry Milton 1 Sermon Chrysostom Poetry Jo Hayes


Spending Time at Christmas

If there is one thing you are almost guaranteed to hear this Christmas season besides covers of Jingle Bells endlessly on repeat in Westfield is a railing against materialism. ‘Tis the season. After all, the amount of money that will be spent, and the amount of plastic that will produced is beyond conception. It can be overwhelming to come home on Christmas night and take in the amount of junk that has been brought forth.

Is materialism really the problem though? What if our malaise has been misdiagnosed? What if the heart of our problem lay not in materialism, but the lack of it. This is the conundrum of much of the Western world according to American theologian William T. Cavanaugh:

‘What really characterises consumer culture is not attachment to things but detachment. People do not hoard money; they spend it. People do not cling to things; they discard them and buy other things.’ – William T. Cavanaugh, Being Consumed: Economics and Christian Desire.

On the macro level, Cavanaugh argues that the GFC was caused, not by materialism, but the desire to transcend material, corporeal constraints like factories in favour of intangible financial assets. On the more subjective and personal level, the reason you end up with a pile of plastic on the evening of December 25 is not because is not because we love stuff; rather, we don’t love stuff enough. We see it as disposable and insignificant.

The gospel tells a different story. It says that God created this world not out of scarcity, but out of the abundance of his love. For this reason every good part of creation is to be received with thanksgiving (1 Timothy 4.1-5). In fact, Paul’s charge to the rich via Timothy is that our riches are not for our certainty, but given by God for our enjoyment.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHow will you celebrate Christmas this year? This is not so much a question of the emotions – for the consideration of the emotions alone leads to mere sentimentalism – but of the affections. How will the content of the Christmas festivities shape your celebration? The guiding maxim of the early church Fathers is helpful at this point. They argued that the unassumed is the unhealed; that is, if Christ is the salvation and restoration of humanity (and all of creation), then he must, of necessity have become truly human. This wonder of the incarnation of the second person of the Holy Trinity that we celebrate at Christmas profoundly shapes how we celebrate. Because God has not abandoned his creation to absurdity and nothingness, we are able to delight in his creation. Not for its own sake, but to receive it as a gift, with thanksgiving. It enables us to give abundantly at Christmas, just as God has given abundantly to us. You would want to do this wisely, appreciating the creation rather than contributing to its denigration. But apprehending this truth drives from our heart the miserly spirit which can neither give nor receive. The gift of God’s Son reminds us that everything it is to be gratuitously received as a gift from the maker and redeemer of all things.

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The Twelve Days of Christmas

Is it my fault that the first eight days is basically thirty birds?
– Andy Bernard, The Office

We know the twelve days of Christmas like the back of our hand: turtle-doves and geese, milkmaids and lords, pipers and drummers and a pear tree. It’s a song we sing as Christmas approaches and, like all other Christmas songs, we are absolutely ready to stop singing it by the time we get to December 25.

Title page from the first known publication of “The 12 days of Christmas” in 1780.

This may come as a surprise to some of us: English-speaking people having been singing this song for centuries but we only started singing it before Christmas very recently! The First Day of Christmas is Christmas Day. It’s a song about the days passing from December 25 through to January 5.

This twelve day period, comprising Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Day, the most important cricket matches and the most popular holiday time for Australian workers, this twelve day period is Christmas.

I’m not exactly sure when contemporary western society decided to change the Twelve Days of Christmas into the twelve days leading up to Christmas. My suspicion is it has a lot to do with the way that our retail sector depends on mad-shopping-rushes and the urgency of buying Christmas gifts at premium prices. It doesn’t do retailers much good if Christmas celebrations are dragged out over almost a fortnight after Christmas Day – we could wait to buy all our gifts in the Boxing Day sales! This year we are going to try and celebrate Christmas the old fashioned way – slowly, calmly and drawn out over two weeks. We are going to take a whole twelve days to reflect on the mystery and glory of Jesus’ incarnation; we are going to spend a whole twelve days celebrating his salvation.

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An Introduction to the Christmas Project

For several years we struggled with the season of Christmas. It wasn’t only the creeping commercialisation brought decorations and carols into stores earlier and earlier each year. It was also the flagrant excess that we saw played out in lives of people around us: the over-eating and the ever increasing amount of plastic stuff that managed to accumulate in our house at the end of each year. Christmas seemed to encourage all kinds of waste.

That was until a few years ago, when we started to observe Advent. December had been the month of frantic parties and visits to shopping malls, the month when our time felt the scarcest, but Advent taught us the habits of patient watching, waiting, and hoping. It reminded us that our times are in the hands of the one who will make all things new.

Advent teaches us to long for the appearing of the Kingdom of God; it trains our heart to long for the second coming of Christ by looking at his first. It is his first coming that Christmas celebrates, a foretaste of the feast that will come. It is a celebration of the great news that God has not abandoned his creation to sin and death. The one who made the world and holds it together becomes a weak, vulnerable, human. This is the wonder of the incarnation – that all the fullness of God should dwell in this man. As Irenaeus wrote in the second century:

“He was born by his own created order which he himself bears.”

Out of this great news that God is with us, Christmas brings three alternatives to consumption and accumulation that run riot at this time of year.

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