VIDEO Carols That Count: “The Twelve Days of Christmas”

And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. 1 John 2:17

At the Roman Catholic Council of Tours in A.D. 567, it was decreed that the twelve days following Christmas Day—December 26 to January 6—were to be set aside as a “sacred and festive season.” This tradition continues in many Christian denominations today, often referred to as Christmastide.

A 1780 English Christmas carol celebrated the twelve days of Christmas in poetic form, enumerating gifts that a true love bestowed on his beloved on each of the twelve days. We sing that poem during the Christmas season today as “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” The gifts are well known: a partridge in a pear tree, turtle doves, French hens, calling birds, gold rings, geese, swans, milk maids, dancing ladies, leaping lords, pipers piping, and drummers. Quite a haul! Besides being good fun, the song reminds us how easy it is to focus on the material, rather than the spiritual dimensions of Christmas.

This Christmas, instead of counting presents, consider the blessings bestowed through the greatest gift of all, God’s Son.

A man finally proclaims whether he is a Christian or not by the view he takes of this world. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

1 John 2:15-17, Dangerous Affections

Generation Now

Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord. 2 Kings 20:2

“Never trust anyone over thirty,” said young environmentalist Jack Weinberg in 1964. His comment stereotyped an entire generation—something Weinberg later regretted. Looking back, he said, “Something I said off the top of my head . . . became completely distorted and misunderstood.”

Have you heard disparaging comments aimed at millennials? Or vice versa? Ill thoughts directed from one generation toward another can cut both ways. Surely there’s a better way.

Although he was an excellent king, Hezekiah showed a lack of concern for another generation. When, as a young man, Hezekiah was struck with a terminal illness (2 Kings 20:1), he cried out to God for his life (vv. 2–3). God gave him fifteen more years (v. 6).

But when Hezekiah received the terrible news that his children would one day be taken captive, the royal tears were conspicuously absent (vv. 16–18). He thought, “Will there not be peace and security in my lifetime?” (v. 19). It may have been that Hezekiah didn’t apply the passion he had for his own well-being to the next generation.

God calls us to a love that dares to cross the lines dividing us. The older generation needs the fresh idealism and creativity of the younger, who in turn can benefit from the wisdom and experience of their predecessors. This is no time for snarky memes and slogans but for thoughtful exchange of ideas. We’re in this together.

By:  Tim Gustafson

Reflect & Pray

In what ways do you think you may have ignored or disrespected others from a different age group? How might you use the gifts God has given you to serve them?

Forgive me, Father, for not appreciating others in a stage of life different from mine.

Abandoning Our Self-Focus

We must let go of our self-centeredness if we hope to obey in a God-honoring way

Jonah 4

As children, we have a natural determination to get our own way, and though this trait is usually tempered as we age, it never really leaves us. Even after salvation, we still have some sinful, self-centered tendencies, which the Bible calls “the flesh” (Gal. 5:17). We all retain habits, attitudes, and thought patterns that must be relinquished if we’re to submit to God’s will.  

As we saw yesterday, Jonah ultimately did what the Lord commanded and saw a great revival in Nineveh. However, he was still controlled by his self-centered attitude and so angry that he preferred to die rather than see the Ninevites saved (Jonah 4:3). He wanted mercy for himself but not for his enemies.

Jonah’s bitterness shows that stubbornly clinging to our self-focus is a snare for our spirit. Pride, anger, resentment, and self-pity are like thick weeds in our path, preventing us from moving forward. But if we give in to such feelings, we’ll steep in emotional turmoil, just as Jonah did. Thankfully, God works in our life to set us free from these hindrances so we can become more like Christ. 

Salvation vs. Assurance of Salvation

“But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.” (1 John 2:5)

The New Testament is emphatically clear that we are saved entirely by the grace of God through faith in Christ. “For by grace are ye saved through faith;…it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).

But how can we know for sure that our professed faith in Christ is genuine and we are really saved? Many who claim to be Christians are not truly saved, for Christ said: “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 7:21).

Now, note that John’s main purpose in writing his gospel was to win people to saving faith in Christ. “These are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (John 20:31). Then the ultimate purpose of his first epistle was to assure them they were saved. “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life” (1 John 5:13).

Thus, we can not only have salvation but also assurance of salvation if we love and guard His Word, seek to keep His commandments, and love all others of like precious faith. Finally, we have the indwelling witness of the Spirit. “Hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us” (1 John 3:24). HMM

Song Of Protection

Lord, I call on You; hurry to [help] me. Listen to my voice when I call on You. May my prayer be set before You as incense, the raising of my hands as the evening offering… But my eyes [look] to You, Lord God. I seek refuge in You; do not let me die. Protect me from the trap they have set for me, and from the snares of evildoers. Let the wicked fall into their own nets, while I pass [safely] by (Psalm 141 vv. 1-2, 8-10).

For many people prayer is a one-liner beginning with “Gimme.” For others it’s a hasty thank-you mumbled over meals or a bedtime blessing left over from childhood. For David, prayer was a way of life.

Here David bows before the Lord during the evening sacrifices. Were allowed to peer over his shoulder as he observes this meaningful ritual. First, he calls on the name of the Lord—a name that, in it’s very use, promises power. His words rise like sweet perfume because they flow from a sincere heart. He lifts his hands in a posture of praise and commitment and prays, with open eyes fixed on his Lord.

The prayer itself is spelled out in specific terms—for the presence of the Lord (v. 1), for preservation of life (v. 8), for supernatural discernment of snares set by the wicked (v. 9), for vindication (v. 10).

I am reminded of the life of Queen Esther (Esther 1-10). Haman, the highest noble under King Xerxes, had a vendetta against the Jews, especially Mordecai, Esther’s guardian. He even erected a gallows, seventy-five feet high, on which to hang Mordecai. Instead, Esther acted responsibly, God acted sovereignly, and the tables were turned!

What comfort there is in knowledge that God has a plan for us that will not be thwarted by the worst the wicked can do!

Personal Prayer

O Lord, I know you hear my prayers just as you heard King David’s. Don’t let me fall into the traps set by the world, but let this humanistic society hang itself by it’s own rope while “I pass by safely.”


Now this is His command: that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another.—1 John 3:23

An advantage of being willing to feel disappointment is that it enables us to come in touch with another hidden sin of the heart—self-protection.

Whenever we are disappointed, we naturally feel hurt and experience inner pain. Some people are so affected by this that a pool of pain builds up inside them, and they say to themselves: “People are a source of hurt. Stay away from them, and don’t get too closely involved.” They see noninvolvement as the best way to avoid the pain of possible disappointment.

But this attitude is a violation of the law of love. Lawrence Crabb, a Christian psychologist, says: “Deficient love is always central to our problems.” Behind most of our problems is a failure to love others as we love ourselves. If we refuse to move towards someone in the spirit of love for fear they may disappoint us, then we are more interested in protecting ourselves from pain than we are in loving—and that is sin.

Did you ever think of self-protection as a sin? Well, it is, and in my estimation it is one of the most subtle of all. Many of our relationships are ruined by this—particularly marriage relationships. A man who shouts angrily at his wife early in his marriage is setting up a self-protective system that says: “Disappoint me, and you will have to suffer the consequences.” What is he doing? He is protecting himself more than he is loving his wife. And that, no matter how one might attempt to rationalize it, is sin.


Father, Your challenges are sometimes more than I can bear, yet I see the sense and wisdom that lies behind them. Reveal to me my own self-protective devices, and help me be willing to give them up in favor of loving as I have been loved. Amen.

Further Study

Lk 10:25-37; Rm 13:10; Jms 1:27

What did the priest and Levite display?

What did the Samaritan display?

We Ought to Pray

Luke 18:1

Jesus said “[Men] ought always to pray, and not to faint” (Luke 18:1 KJV). Commenting on that, Samuel Logan Brengle wrote, “That little ‘ought’ is emphatic. It implies obligation and is inescapable. Men ought to pray. They ought to pray always, and they ought not to faint or grow fainthearted and cease praying.”

Why pray? Pray because you are a Christian. It is the very essence of a believer’s being. Pray because your need drives you to your knees.

What evidence do we have that prayer is worthwhile? The only evidence that you need is that God commands it. Obedience is the hallmark of the disciple. To pray is simply to obey orders—and since our orders are urgent and unequivocal, it follows that failure to pray is inexcusable. Our prayerlessness is perhaps our greatest sin.

How does one learn the pursuit of God? Of all disciplines this must surely be the most demanding. And can we pray suitably, just because we are commanded to do so? It may seem a little like being ordered to fall in love! Should we not come to prayer eagerly, voluntarily, our hearts alight with longing for God? And like other disciplines it can become a delight. So much so that one comes to look forward to that little calm in the midst of much turbulence.

Praying is wide in its scope. It is broad in its caring, reflecting the fact that God loves every man, woman and child, all five billion of us. “If we have God-given compassion and concern for others,” wrote Richard Foster, “our faith will grow and strengthen as we pray. In fact, if we genuinely love people, we desire for them far more than it is within our power to give, and that will cause us to pray.”

“I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer” (1 Timothy 2:8). Pray then, because the Lord commands it. Pray, too, because you love the people for whom you intercede. Brothers and sisters, to prayer!

Edward Read, Timothy, My Son