December 25 to January 6 is known as “the twelve days of Christmas” and celebrates the time between the birth of Christ and the arrival of the Magi. The song talking about gifts on these twelve days is a popular Christmas song for many and irritating jingle for others. One theory says the song was developed as a teaching tool for persecuted Christians to share their basic faith beliefs. So we continue,
“On the second day of Christmas,
my true love gave to me, two turtle doves
AND a partridge in a pear tree.”
Two turtle doves, a gift from “true love” are the second gift to bless us. The two turtle doves are thought to represent the Old Testament and the New Testament. Why two and not just one, you might ponder? There are stereo types that differentiate the two parts of the Bible and provide a possible answer. The Old Testament shares “law,” the Ten Commandments, and the New Testament shares “grace,” the story of Jesus and salvation. There is a tendency to see the “new” as more up-to-date and the relevant truth and the old…well, outdated and not as relevant. I want to play the devil’s advocate today and challenge that simple summary.
Two testaments, I think, challenge our concept of God. How do we think of God? Is God a static, distant set of rules and commandments that must be pleased, the giver of the Old Testament, and so the need of the grace and forgiveness as found in Jesus in the New Testament? Or is God a living being that relates to his creation much as a parent relates to a child? My children have grown from infants when we carried them in our arms, to toddlers, to children, to youth, to becoming young adults, and now as full adults with whom we have deepening conversations and a relationship that takes on new dimensions and characteristics. My relationship with them has grown even though I am the same parent. Real beings grow in relationship and communication styles over time.
In the Old Testament, the people of Israel were becoming and the Ten Commandments can be seen as a rule book to be obeyed or as a set of guidelines explaining how life works best. My tendency, especially when I was younger, was to see God as a right, wrong relationship so that if I could control my behavior and thoughts, then I felt more secure, more “loved.” Perhaps God waited and at the right time tried again to relate, realizing we needed an incarnation, a physical representation of him, to understand our relationship. In fact “law” and “grace” are found in both parts of the Bible. Two turtle doves, a gift from “true love” communicates into our reality Love’s unfolding character and relationship with his creation. The Bible is a gift to all, translatable to many languages to communicate “true love.”
Today, as we continue to shift from Christmas to the challenges of 2021, may we hold in our hearts that “true love” continues to communicate with us in new ways as we grow and develop and face various challenges. The story of Christmas is not static narrative but the beginning of an unfolding relationship where “true love” reaches out to you through your past life but now into new, dynamic expressions in your unfolding life. God is a real being who cares about you in old and new ways. Love for God reaching out to you today and is offering the olive branch that is often pictured as carried in the turtle dove’s beak. Blessings.