“On the eleventh day of Christmas
my true love gave to me:
11 pipers piping,
10 lords a leaping, 9 ladies dancing, 8 maids a milking, 7 Swans a Swimming, 6 Geese a Laying
5 Gold–en Rings
4 Calling Birds, 3 French Hens, 2 Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree”
Eleven pipers piping represent the eleven faithful apostles. Of all the people who followed Jesus, and there were many, twelve formed the “cabinet” and became known as the Apostles. Disciples were followers of Jesus but Apostle were his closest followers and of those even one betrayed him, Judas Iscariot. Hence, eleven pipers piping. Why does this song call us to remember these eleven of all the people who have lived faithful lives?
Perhaps it reminds us that faithfulness often does not occur in the arena of popularity. The Apostles changed the entire world through their faithfulness and leadership. Rome ruled the world, not recognizing Judaism, nor feeling the need to honor the humanity of those who did. Crucifixion was not unique to Jesus and was a cruel death to all who opposed Rome. Women could be divorced for burning the dinner, not pleasing her husband, or not being faithful before marriage. Women had no protection, no planned parenthood. There was no social security or retirement plans. There was no such thing as insurance or hospitals! Public education available with food plans for the poor – not yet realized.
The eleven apostles represent the impact and cost of faithfulness. All but John died a martyr’s death but they changed a world not so different than ours. My thoughts wander to individual who have changed worlds and who have inspired me. Sr. Elizabeth Fedde, a Norwegian Deaconess, came to the USA to help Norwegian sailors, sick in the slums. She started Sunday schools, hospitals, and the modern ambulance idea when she purchased horses being discarded for trains and painted a wagon white and collected the sick. Henrietta Mears led Sunday school at Hollywood Presbyterian church where I later worked on a suicide call line and she led the 450 Sunday school program to be 4,200 children per week – in two years. Who did she impact? Bill Bright was one of her students and went on to lead Campus Crusade and write the Four Spiritual Laws that have helped define Evangelicalism. Billy Graham was impacted by her.
In the face of demonstrations and mobs this last year it is easy to feel small and helpless. Eleven Pipers Piping in the Christmas song reminds us that eleven faithful people can change a cruel and unjust world by doing that which True Love guides us to do. Our faithfulness in many small ways is important and changes lives.
So my prayer today as we face our future is that we will faithfully play our small pipe in the small, perhaps only eleven, group we find ourselves in, playing a tune that glorifies God, True Love, and speaks of his tune to the world that struggles. Blessings as you play your pipe today!