Merry First Day of Christmas

Today is the unofficial First Day of Christmas since it’s 12 days until The Big Day, which means it’s fixing to be Christmas. 

That we say “fixing to” instead of “about to” is one of the joys of being a Southerner. Who said it first, I don’t know, but bless his heart, and merry First Day of Christmas to you. 

Some traditions hold that the First Day of Christmas is December 25, and the 12 days run into the New Year. Who wants to wait that long? Not me. We’re fixing to start celebrating now. 

Speaking of things southern, we’ve been working on some carols, Southern-themed: 

“I’m dreaming of a white cornbread,
In every skillet that’s in sight.
May the sides be crispy, to bite,
And may all your cornbreads be just right.”

Or, how about . . . 

“Pork skins roasting on an open fire.
Chittlins’ nipping at your nose.
Waylon and Willy being sung by the fire,
While dad spends Christmas Eve at Lowe’s.”

Give me some time to work on it …  

Thankfully, the most important songs were written at the dawn of time and wait as gifts for us to receive and to sing with sincerity, even as the angels sang, that long-ago Judean night, as Luke recorded: 

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace,
goodwill toward men.” 

Peace and goodwill came to earth, to men, in the flesh and as a baby. Only God could have thought of something like that. 

William Billings, regarded as America’s first choral composer, captured — at least as well as a human mind can — the mystery of the incarnation in his Shepherd’s Carol, composed in New England in the mid-1700s. 

“Seek not in courts or palaces,
nor royal curtains draw.
But search the stable, see your God
extended on the straw.”

God, extended on the straw. 

Extended, as a baby, a stretching newborn.  Extended, from a heavenly throne to an earthly manger.  Extended, to mankind and to man, to each of us, individually. 

God extends his hand.  Even to me.  Even to you.  

Christmas is always the opportunity to receive the best gift of all, a new birth in our old selves. And a new song the Psalmist told us about. 

“He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God . . ..”   

Now some 2,000 years after Christ’s birth, the message is the same.  A 19th century minister named Phillips Brooks reminds us, each year at this time, that the Good News is everlasting.  If we choose to be quiet, we might even hear the song, the new song, born in a manger. 

“How silently, how silently
the wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
the blessings of His heaven.
No ear may hear His coming,
but in this world of sin,
where meek souls will receive him still,
the dear Christ enters in.” 

If no one’s wished you Merry Christmas yet, I’m “fixing to.” Let me be the first. Here’s hoping we can get in tune with the baby and ourselves and each other, and make this our best song yet.  

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