10 lepers leaping?

By Xavier Romero-Frias – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=23287278

by Brandon Beck

At a recent holiday gathering, my extended family and I discussed the traditional carol “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” Not everyone at the table observes the Twelve Days, so those of us who do shared our planned activities based on our traditions for each of the days and talked about the significance of the carol lyrics in our experiences.

One person shared that her favorite of the days is Boxing Day, especially now that she has young children. She said, “Giving to others is always important to me, but this one day, after the kids have opened presents from Santa, we go as a family out in the community and learn about and engage in some service outside of church.” She said all the kids – from the 4-year-old through the 12-year-old – have already developed a positive anticipation for Boxing Day and have started finding projects on their own. This year they were going to a local community center that had set up an emergency cold weather shelter to serve food and hand out blankets.

A family friend asked each of us which verse from the traditional carol was our favorite. I shared a story about how I had thought that the tenth day verse was “ten lepers leaping” and was about Jesus’s miracles and healings. I learned to laugh at myself just this year when someone at church pointed out that I had changed the lyric!!

That led us to pull out our phones and Google everything we never knew about this carol. I was pleasantly surprised to learn of symbolic connections in the lyrics to such things as the four Gospels, the five books of the Pentateuch, the 10 Commandments. What do you think the others might be? (Click here to check your thoughts!)

After Christmastide, we might struggle to remember that stillness we’ve just left in Advent – that anticipation we felt and relished while we waited with Mary and Joseph.

Now, we will receive people from around the world in the Scholars from the East on Epiphany. We will witness John baptize Jesus saying:

“This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.”

32 Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him.  33 And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’”

The seasons of Lent and Easter are not that far away – Jesus the newborn will be 33 before we know it.

We must make every effort to remember to love God, love our neighbor, and love ourselves – and to slow down, open our eyes in wonder, and to see Christ in each other – no matter what busy-ness is around us.

The 19th century Swiss philosopher Henri-Frederic Amiel offers a fabulous benediction to draw us deeper to that truth:

Life is short and we have never too much time for gladdening the hearts of those who are traveling the dark journey with us. Oh, be swift to love, make haste to be kind! (December 16, 1868. As translated in Amiel’s Journal: The Journal Intime of Henri-Frédéric Amiel (1885), by Mrs. Humphry Ward. Macmillan.)

Amen.

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