The twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me: Twelve drummers drumming….
Once upon a time I knew a young woman from Iran. She said that when she first came to America it was so beautiful that she wrote to her parents about the people in San Francisco. “They are all singing in the streets, and the trees are all lit up with colored lights and the stores are so welcoming,” and so forth….Everyone was so friendly and wished her happiness everywhere she went. And then it all stopped suddenly. “What happened?” she asked. “It was Christmas,” someone told her, “and now it is over until next year.”
Imagine someone who does not know our culture, our customs, our seasons, suddenly finding people changed into the brusque unfriendly strangers and the streets darkened once again. No more ringing bells, beautiful music, smiling faces. The joy brought into our world packed away with the ornaments to be released when Christmas comes again. The abruptness of it all, like a door slamming, the gifts that didn’t fit have been exchanged, the knick-knacks have been tucked away to be re-gifted, and the relatives have all retreated happily to their own homes. Whew! It is over. A realtor once told me about some clients who had Christmas trees and lights strung outside in July who said, “It is too much bother to keep this decorating and packing up every year.” Yes, there are some who just don’t get with the program, or just maybe that is an excuse to keep the spirit of the season alive all year…. To quote my Anglican priest in Texas, Father Gregory Wilcox, who sent this to me for the twelfth day:
“Christmas, you and I know, isn’t just eggnog and cookies with green and red icing and the tree a-sparkle in the dark living room. These are the sacraments, “the outward and visible signs” of Christmas: of the Babe in the manger, the Virgin and her anxious husband, the shepherds and their lambs, the terrifying and wonderful choir of angels singing above the Judean plain. All these, in turn, are the outward visible signs of God’s Love; the Love that gives all other love meaning, which became flesh to turn our sorrow to joy”
Drumming, according to the dictionary, can mean many things, and one of them is a constant reminder, something beaten into your head. Another, of course, is the act of playing an instrument. We all react to drumming of this kind. It takes us back to the womb where the first thing we were aware of was the beat of a heart that told us everything was okay. We were still going somewhere. I won’t go into what makes a person play the drums, but for a brief time when I tried to “manage” rock bands, I found the drummer the most difficult to manage. Everything depends on the beat and the drummer knows it. A good drummer can disturb, comfort, incite, excite, and most of all apply the heat to the soul of any music. I salute the drummers, the musicians who reassure us we are still alive. That is the kindest gift of all. What makes us human is what is truly important.
There are many gifts, many talents, much generosity, but the greatest gift was given to us at the Holy Nativity. As the Christmas “season” ends formally, we can continue to be joyful that Christ was born into our world, our consciousness, our hearts. What can we give Him in return? Humble gratitude is a start. Let the whole world rejoice and sing!
by Harriet Maxwell Converse
Translated from a traditional Iroquois prayer
We who are here present thank the Great Spirit that we are here
to praise Him.
We thank Him that He has created men and women, and ordered
that these beings shall always be living to multiply the earth.
We thank Him for making the earth and giving these beings its products
to live on.
We thank Him for the water that comes out of the earth and runs
for our lands.
We thank Him for all the animals on the earth.
We thank Him for certain timbers that grow and have fluids coming
from them for us all.
We thank Him for the branches of the trees that grow shadows
for our shelter.
We thank Him for the beings that come from the west, the thunder
and lightning that water the earth.
We thank Him for the light which we call our oldest brother, the sun
that works for our good.
We thank Him for all the fruits that grow on the trees and vines.
We thank Him for his goodness in making the forests, and thank
all its trees.
We thank Him for the darkness that gives us rest, and for the kind Being
of the darkness that gives us light, the moon.
We thank Him for the bright spots in the skies that give us signs,
We give Him thanks for our supporters, who had charge of our harvests.
We give thanks that the voice of the Great Spirit can still be heard
through the words of Ga-ne-o-di-o.
We thank the Great Spirit that we have the privilege of this pleasant
We give thanks for the persons who can sing the Great Spirit’s music,
and hope they will be privileged to continue in his faith.
We thank the Great Spirit for all the persons who perform the ceremonies
on this occasion.
And the beautiful beat goes on!!!!