On The Twelfth Day of Christmas
Today is the twelfth and last day of Christmas. So, for all of us who decided to leave our Christmas decorations up until Epiphany (which starts tomorrow), light those lights, enjoy the decorations and the tree one last day.
According to medieval tradition, all decor should be removed on the Twelfth Night of Christmas so as not bring bad luck upon the household. It's a good thing I don't believe in medieval tradition because I won't be getting to my decorations until this weekend.
For centuries, the Twelfth Day of Christmas was a time of revelry, a day when the social order was turned upside down. Masters dressed as servants, servants as masters.
The essential meaning behind the topsy-turvy celebrations on the Twelfth Day of Christmas was that through Jesus, God had taken on the form of a servant, and come to live among us---or "moved into our neighborhood," as Eugene Peterson put it in The Message.
My New Testament reading for this morning came from the first chapter of the book of Acts where the disciples of Jesus decide to replace Judas Iscariot by choosing between two guys: Matthias and Joseph Barsabbas. The disciples decided to "cast lots" or draw straws between them, and the "lot fell on Matthias."
There's nothing else in the Bible about poor old Joseph Barsabbas. Christian tradition indicates he may have been the brother of Judas Barsabbas, who was a companion of the Apostle Paul, but that's not confirmed.
It is also believed that he eventually became the leader of a church in the ancient village of Betaris, and was martyred there. But mostly, he's just known as a guy who didn't get picked to be one of the Twelve.
As I was thinking about this today, I decided that we ought to make Joseph Barsabbas the unofficial patron saint of the Twelfth Day of Christmas.
On a day when we celebrate the upside-down way that God entered into our world, he's the perfect guy to lift up as our example. He was second in a two-man race. He embodied Jesus' "race-to-the-bottom" discipleship ethic.
Tomorrow we will begin the season of Epiphany, which focuses on the surprising, unusual way that God reveals Godself to humankind.
As we prepare to enter into Epiphany, let's live in the example of St. Joseph Barsabbas, and seek to become less. Let us strive to see the world in the topsy-turvy way God sees it, and let us hold our status, our comfort and our pride loosely in order to experience Christ in surprising places.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always.