Wednesday, January 2, 2013

On the Ninth Day of Christmas...

“On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...nine ladies dancing, eight maids a-milking, seven swans a-swimming, six geese a-laying, five gold rings –  four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree.”

Dance is part of worship and celebration. It’s commended in the Bible, particularly in the Psalms (e.g., 49:3; 150:4). Following Hebrew tradition, the church beyond the first millennium saw dance as an expression of prayer and praise. Relatively recently it has resurfaced in some worship services.

The popular song, “The Lord of the Dance,” portrays Jesus’ life and mission as a dance. Its words were adapted to the tune from the American Shaker song, “Simple Gifts.” On this ninth day of Christmas, with today’s verse about dancing, see how these words get your own feet tapping –  or set you to dancing!
I danced in the morning when the world was begun 
I danced in the Moon and the Stars and the Sun 
I came down from Heaven and I danced on Earth 
At Bethlehem I had my birth:
Dance then, wherever you may be 
I am the Lord of the Dance, said He! 
And I’ll lead you all, wherever you may be...
lead you all in the Dance, said He! 
“...and I danced on Earth”! How at odds this is with portrayals of Jesus as serenely private, sad, melancholy – or hanging on a cross. Those are true, too, no doubt. But what’s missing is “the joy set before him” at the heart of it all (Hebrews 12:2).

Jesus was a Jew who participated in the traditions of his day. There’s no way the special joy he knew could have kept him from dancing along with his fellow Jews. He was not a recluse. He wanted there to be enough wine at weddings! He wanted his disciples to be as caught up in the Spirit of celebration as he was.

For the reserved among us who refuse to dance or lack the occasion, we can still get the Spirit. We can let the joy of Emmanuel – “God with us” – dance in our hearts. And in how we come across to others, they’ll know the same joy we do. 

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