Background text: Luke 2: 8-19
Devotional text: Luke 2: 1-7
Lately I had an old Christmas song running through my head. It goes like this: âChristmas is coming, the goose is getting bigger. Please put a dime in the old man’s hat. If you don’t have a dime, a ha’penny will do. If you don’t have a dime, then God bless you! “
This song, which over the years has been covered by a number of singers (from the Kingston Trio in 1960, to others like Harry Belafonte, The Manhattan Transfer and John Denver with the Muppets!), Sung with their own bias on the music, is actually taken from an Old English Christmas rhyme.
It was traditionally sung in the round, and some use the plural, geese, while others use the word goose. The rhyme has lasted for many generations. Its popularity started in Britain and traveled to the United States.
The music for the phrases was brought to us by Edith Nesbit Bland, who was both an author and a poet, especially of children’s books. She was born in London in 1858 and died in 1924. We do not have an exact date for the music she wrote for this rhyme, except that it was composed at the end of the 19th century.
The words themselves refer to the English Christmas festival where a goose is served as the main meat dish. So it’s easy to see the correlation between Christmas and the expectation of a sumptuous meal.
The following verse refers to Christmas as a season of giving to the less fortunate: âPlease put a penny in the old man’s hat. “
While a penny won’t take anyone too far today, in the 7th century it was introduced in the form of a small silver coin also known as a denarius. The penny became thinner and bore the image of the king when it was introduced to England in the 8th century.
Originally, the penny weighed 1.3 to 1.5 grams of pure silver. Today in Britain the penny still exists (called a penny in the plural), but, according to the Royal Mint, 8% of them are simply thrown away. Today, if you can find one, the British penny is copper clad with steel.
In this traditional rhyme, the ha’penny refers to half a penny, which was half the value of a full penny. Finally, if a ha’penny was not available, one could also say “God bless you”, asking the Lord to provide.
So what does this tell us about this particular rhyme? Christmas was a season of family and joy, and the celebration of the birth of Christ. We know this because it is a happy tune; this includes giving to those in need and blessing one another in the name of our God whose Son is born to us.
Origins of “Christmas”
As Christmas gets closer and closer, aside from shopping for each other and cooking a family meal, let’s take a look at that word âChristmasâ.
It is an abbreviated version of the “Mass of the Day of Christ”, from English. The term comes from “Cristes-mass” as it appeared in Old English, which means “mass of Christ”.
This word for Christmas was used as early as 1038. However, long before the term Christmas was used, the day celebrating the birth of Christ was known as the Feast of the Nativity, recorded in 432 in Egypt. Another celebration of the birth of Christ dates from Rome in 336.
The first celebrations of the birth of Jesus include people greeting each other with “Christ is born”, and the response given as “Glorify him!” In some cultures, these words continue to this day.
Sometimes bread is presented to the table and grated for everyone to eat. Others spread straw on their tables, recalling the birth of Jesus in a stable.
Today in America, many families celebrate Christmas outside and inside their homes, with Christmas trees and seasonal decorations. They buy gifts for each other as a symbol of presenting gifts to baby Jesus. They go to Christmas Eve candlelight services to announce the birth of Christ, Jesus.
On the same day, people gather, with family, friends and welcome guests, to eat, open gifts, light Christ’s candle, and read Christmas stories from the layman to the biblical. The spirit of the season is that of conviviality.
As we have learned from the scriptures found in Luke 2: 8-19, the shepherds together observed their sheep in the fields at night when an angel appeared, declaring the birth of the Messiah.
The angel was joined by a heavenly host while singing glory to God. Together the shepherds came down to Bethlehem to see the baby. Then they spread the word throughout the community about Jesus’ glorious birth.
It was a time of conviviality, a time of community, around the birth of Jesus. It was the start of what would become a worldwide event in the lives of many people. As today we find joy in celebrating our Savior together, it is also a time of giving of ourselves to others and of forgiveness to one another.
In Luke 1: 1-7 we read the story of Christ’s birth in the stable every Christmas Eve because there was no room at the inn. It is both a private birth and then it becomes a celebration open to the guests chosen by God – the local shepherds. Later we will read the story of the magi who came from the east to honor the newborn king.
Each year we welcome Christ into our lives by singing the Christmas carols of the season: “Joy to the World”, “Angels We Have Heard on High”, “Silent Night”, “Away in the Manger” and so many. ‘others. honor Christ who would offer salvation and eternal life to the world.
Take joy in the season. Be kind to others and have a Merry Christmas!