The Twelfth Day of Christmas

On the eve of Epiphany there are a multitude of sounds to consider

On this twelfth day of Christmas,
I’m listening for the percussive rhythm
of twelve drummers drumming.
But I don’t hear it.

I don’t even hear the familiar melody
of that traditional song
that calls attention to (among other things)
five golden rings,
three French hens
and a partridge in a pear tree.

Perhaps I’m barking up the wrong tree.
It’s entirely possible.
The recent “blizzard of the century”
that blanketed upstate New York
in an unprecedented snowfall
unleashed the sounds of sirens
from emergency vehicles
helping the despairing
and searching for the missing.

Rather than twelve drummers,
what’s drumming in my head
are the snares of holiday travel
that kept families separated
from one another this season.

I’m aware of the sighs and tears
that punctate the pain and grief
of those facing this new year
without a loved one
who left through the doorway of death
in recent days.

I’m hearing the cacophony
of chaotic concerns
related to the recent upticks
in COVID variants.

I’m listening to the constant
(and as-yet unanswered)
prayers for peace in Ukraine
while those in Ukraine
hear the scream of rockets overhead
and the scream of victims on the ground.

My ears embrace the sounds of suffering
from terminally-ill kids in cancer wards
in children’s hospitals
as well as the muffled weeping
of countless women who regret their decision
to abort their unborn baby.

I can’t help but hearing the sounds
of praying parents and grandparents
calling out to God on behalf of those they love
who are making self-destructive choices
or suffering the consequences of mindless decisions
made in haste.

And on this day before Epiphany,
when we will
at long last
celebrate the magi’s arrival
at their longed-for destination,
I also hear an infant’s cry.

It is a cry that echoes down the hallway
of two millennia.
It is the cry of empathy and understanding.
God-with-us is with us, indeed.