How Many Golden Rings?

In my last blog post, I introduced a series on the liturgical calendar. The church has used the liturgical calendar for centuries to order its life around keystones of our faith. If you missed my intro, you can read it HERE. In today’s post, we will very briefly look at three events on the liturgical calendar that are directly connected: Advent, the 12 Days of Christmas, and Epiphany.

Advent is the four weeks leading up to Christmas. The season begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas and ends on Christmas Eve. Its a season of expectant waiting. Those four weeks are a time for us to use for reflection and anticipation. This occurs on two fronts. First, we are reflecting on our own sins and need for a Savior and anticipating the arrival of Christ as a baby on Christmas. Second, since Christ has already come, we are also anticipating his future return when he will bring a new heaven, a new earth, and a new Jerusalem. Advent can be difficult to understand and celebrate in America since we start celebrating the Christmas season in August. However, setting time aside to anticipate, reflect, and wait is valuable. It allows us to develop a deeper understanding of our need for a Savior, the wonder of Christ’s Incarnation, and the joy of his imminent coming. Advent is a beautiful way to begin the liturgical year.

Advent ends on Christmas Eve and the 12 Days of Christmas begins on Christmas Day. I don’t know about you, but I always used to wonder where that absurd song came from with the geese, and golden rings, and a partridge in a pear tree (in case you’re wondering, 364 gifts are given in the singing of that song). The song is based on the celebration of the 12 Days of Christmas. This was a traditional time of feasting. It served two purposes. The first was to end the time of waiting and fasting that accompanied Advent. The second was to celebrate the arrival of Christ! We can celebrate in a variety of ways. Instead of having a huge one-day blowout, spread Christmas out. Open a few gifts each day. Take time to rest and enjoy time with your family. Celebrate traditional feast days such as the Feast of St Stephen, Honoring John the Baptist, or the Remembering the Holy Innocents. Gather your friends and family for a series of smaller get-togethers. Whatever you decide to do, allow the 12 days after Christmas to be a joyful celebration and rest that remembers the arrival of our Savior.
The 12 Days of Christmas end with Epiphany. Epiphany is celebrated on January 6 and is a remembrance of the arrival of the three Magi in Matthew 2. It celebrates the inclusion of Gentiles in the family of God. The Magi weren’t Jewish and came from a faraway land. They are the first Gentiles we see who understand who Christ is and come to worship. Since the majority of us are, in fact, Gentiles, this holds special significance for us. Epiphany is a time for us to celebrate God’s inclusion of Gentiles in his family and how we are saved by grace, not because we belong to a specific ethnic group or nation. This season lasts through the beginning of Lent. This is the time to add the wise men to your nativity scene, eat your favorite ethnic foods, and remember the unity we share with believers worldwide.

These three seasons bring us from the beginning of the liturgical new year through the early Spring. Next time, we are going to look at Lent. Lent is the 40-day season that leads up to Easter. Check out our Axis resources if you are looking for more information on the liturgical calendar or any of the seasons we are talking about in this series. You can get access to them for free by clicking HERE. In addition to Parent Guides on the liturgical calendar, you’ll find information on social media, electronics, mental health, and more.

Josh Cervone