On the Eight Day of Christmas

“On the eighth day of Christmas
my true love gave to me:

8 maids a milking,
7 Swans a Swimming, 6 Geese a Laying
5 Golden Rings
4 Calling Birds, 3 French Hens, 2 Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree”

Eight maids are milking today.  Coffee shops could certainly use this for a logo.  What are the maids milking?  In Kenya where I worked for 25 years, the young girls could be milking cows if you were rich, but also goats, or even camels.  The milk provided the protein for the morning “chai” or tea that gave strength to work through the day.  Milk is the food that helps babies grow when they are helpless and cannot eat adult food.  So the connection of these eight maids to the eight beatitudes found in the Gospel of Matthew 5:3-12 is challenging. 

         Jesus lists eight “Beatitudes” or blessed states but they are not what we expect, “ Blessed are -the poor in spirit, -those who mourn, -the meek, those who hunger after righteousness, –the merciful, -the pure in heart, -the peacemakers, and -those persecuted.  Most of us would not choose any of these “blessings” except perhaps to be blessed with peacemaking and mercy.  None of us would choose to be a helpless baby (ask the unemployed, the elderly, the disabled who would long to contribute and are crying for milk – not the whole cow!) but we do want to have eight maids doing our work for us so we can have our morning tea or coffee.

         The eight beatitudes are each followed with a “for they shall be…” outcome.  Mourners shall be comforted.  Hunger and thirst for righteousness shall be satisfied.  Persecution for righteousness sake leads to the Kingdom of Heaven.  Does “the ends justify the means” or do the beatitudes remind of us a basic principle we must remember?  When we perceive ourselves as infants, challenged and unable to meet the challenge before us, the journey of faith leads to a blessed goal.  The beatitudes remind us that the difficulties and longings of this world are working for us to carry us to fulfilled existence, even as milk feeds the baby and helps the child grow.  That does not make the problems of this world “good” because evil is evil but it does affirm that “God works all things together for good,” walks with us helping us as maids help their caretaker, and is leading us to maturity. 

         Today is not the end of the journey; we are in process. We are not alone (eight maids – the community), and we are growing.  So how does that apply today?  I ponder where I might need milk to sustain my soul and encouragement from those working with me.  Is one of the beatitudes giving direction to your prayers this month or perhaps pray a different beatitude each month!  Let’s also not forget to look outward and think about whom we might give a “cup of water” or glass of milk to.  Who in our life is struggling and perhaps discouraged that we could bless?  Blessings are received and blessings are given by True Love who is working “all things together for good,” for our growth.  Open my eyes that I might see the beatitudes at work in 2021!

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