By Rev. Kurt Condra
Love it or hate it, 'Twelve Days of Christmas' is a classic carol. Growing up, it figured prominently in Christmas celebrations with my mom's side of the family. We sang it every year before opening gifts. And since everyone had to take a solo line, we added verses. I'll skip the details. Suffice to say, as the family grew, our lyrics got more creative (by that I mean risque). Still, it's a long, repetitive song. No matter how clever the additions, trust me, they exacerbate the redundancy.
If you know the words, you'll remember on the fifth day, True Love gives five golden rings. If you know the music, it's the line marking a shift in rhythm, meter and tune. All the days before and after run together like railcars hitched in a train. "Five Golden Rings" is like a giant turnstyle under a San Francisco cable car: It turns the whole song around, sending it back down the same track from which it came.
My mom understood the power of this turning point. She owned that line. No matter how many side-conversations threatened to derail the enterprise, year after year, her full-throated, unabashed, not-quite-off-key "F...i...v...e G...o...l..d...e...n R...i...n...g..s!!!" was so uncharacteristically brash and bold, it shifted focus back to the joy of being together. Verse after endless verse, with humor and glee she reminded us how rare and sacred and precious it was for the whole family to be gathered.
That's the power of joy expressed boldly.
As we enter this final week of Advent, which calls us to cultivate joyous hearts, may we be willing to extend ourselves exuberantly. Whether physically present or not, may we risk feeling embarrassed or ashamed or judged, so that, like Mary and Marian (my mom), we magnify the glory of Infinite Love.