The 12 NEW Days of Christmas (ft. Bonnie Johnson Fite)

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Christmas is about JESUS! Our God and savior came to earth as a man – as a little baby! It’s joyous news, and we could do to be reminded of that every day.

Bonnie Johnson Fite put her God-given musical talents to work doing exactly that when she created the incredibly successful “The 12 New Days of Christmas.” This retuning of an old classic puts Jesus back at the center of the Christmas story, right where He belongs.

She sat down with me to explain how this beautiful book came to be (and she sings a little of it, too!).

If you have children or grandchildren who love to sing, this episode is for you!

Check out Bonnie’s website: https://profoundpromises.com/product/the-twelve-new-days-of-christmas-gift-set-with-cd/

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Transcript

Elaine Beck 0:12
Hi, everyone, Elaine Beck here, and we are so happy as always, excited about what we’re doing today on, It’s Not About Us. And as you know, we’re on CPAC Now, and you can also see us by just going to ElaineBeck.com and you’ll see all of our shows, but today, I have a very special guest. Her name is Bonnie Johnson Fite. What a great name. Pretty powerful there, Bonnie. And, you know, I’m going to tell you the truth. I just met this wonderful woman. We are at an FRC events here in Washington, DC. And Bonnie. You know, when I came to her booth, I was just amazed by a couple things. First, I’ve always loved the song The 12 Days of Christmas. And she has made it into a beautiful Christmas song that is particularly wonderful for children. And you know, we’re always trying to save the children in this country from all the evil that’s out there. We’re always trying to find the light in things. And Bonnie has a way of doing that. So Bonnie, thank you for being here.

Bonnie Fite 1:30
Thank you, Elaine, it’s an honor to be able to join you today.

Elaine Beck 1:33
Well, thank you, honey, I was amazed. Because when I asked her about it, she started singing bits of it. And she actually uses the tune the 12 days of Christmas. And we all love that song, don’t we? That how many of us really understood all of those days and what they meant. So I’m gonna put her on the spot and ask her to sing part of this for you. And you were at you also were a choir director. And she has a beautiful voice. And so first tell us a little bit about the book and then maybe you can sing some of the verses.

Bonnie Fite 2:19
Yeah. Okay, so I’m, I’m a former classroom teacher. And one day when I became a stay at home mom and I had four children riding around in my minivan first week of December. And I really love all of those great Christmas carols. And sometimes children aren’t hearing the Christmas carols. And so I had a hymnal that I actually had in the back seat and my oldest was in second grade. So he could actually read the words if I didn’t know them, but I wanted them to know all four verses of Hark the Herald Angels, right, all of that kind of stuff. So we would be singing Christmas carols. And then one day, my son Gabriel said, Mom, I want to do the 12 days of Christmas. And as I’m singing that song with the kids, it’s bothering me because that’s the song that doesn’t have anything to do with baby Jesus. And so, finally, I got up to ten. I’m trying to think, how do I get out of this? Because I really don’t like this. And I said, you know, kids, when we got up to 10, I said, I don’t know if it’s 10 drummers or 10 Piper’s but I said, we need to fix this song and put in baby Jesus right there. They were very agreeable. Okay, mommy. So we started hacking away at the song. And of course, if you’re going to rewrite it, number one, who is number one at Christmas, Primo Uno? Jesus. And so we get the baby in a manger bed, and then to who would be in second place the two earthly parents, we know that God, Jesus already had a heavenly Father. And he needed an earthly father. So I decided to call him the earthly parents. Anyway. So we went on and on with three wise men and counting down once I had come up with a whole, you know, rewritten the entire song, this is back in 97, in Silicon Valley. And then I had already written my first book. And so I understood the world of publishing and copyright. And I thought, you know, people could actually sing this song in a church? However, some of the characters like for elder saints, that wouldn’t make sense. The first three people know who they are, right. But some of the characters they wouldn’t have any idea. And, you know, I guess I have to describe who they are. And so it occurred to me I should write an Advent devotional and write a little devotional that describes each character and how they fit with the big Christmas story. Once I’d written the full thing, then, you know, and I have this little again, it started in the minivan sing with the kids, but I was talking to the Lord saying, Lord, I don’t know what to do. I’d submitted it to publishers. I’d had a couple of publishers say we like it. We want to publish this. But they all said that they would not do music because I had a vision for a song to be with the book. And because it’s really singable, and instead they, these publishers were like, we wouldn’t do the music, but we love it, we would like to publish the book. And to me that I felt like it would be cutting off what started the whole thing, the actual song, right? So I told him I, you know, I decided not to take not to take up these two publishers that were interested in it.

Elaine Beck 5:30
Good for you.

Bonnie Fite 5:30
It sat in a filing cabinet for four years. And then one day, I’m having this conversation behind the wheel driving my minivan. And I was like, God, do you ever want me to do something with that little Christmas song? And it was like the Lord was saying, Bonnie, you need to you need to get this thing published. And I said, Yes. But I can’t find a publisher who will let me do the music, right? And it was like the Lord said, then do it yourself. And it was like, Oh, my goodness, because my first book, of course, had been working with a publisher and, and so I was like, Well, Lord, if I didn’t mind, you know, I said, I need to find an illustrator because there’s no way I could-

Elaine Beck 6:07
Don’t you love the way we have these conversations with God? I mean, He’s just so amazing. And He listens to us. And then He answers us. So what was His answer?

Bonnie Fite 6:16
His answer, He said, I said, God, I need an illustrator and he dropped this name out of heaven, Ginni Bunnell, and I had been living in Silicon Valley Ginni Bunnell lived in Palo Alto, which is a little bit north of Silicon Valley, but still in the general region. She had written quite a few children’s books – not written to illustrate. So. But finding a woman in basically the Bay area of San Francisco Bay Area was 7 million people, not knowing what her husband’s name was, was like a needle in a haystack, how can I find her, but I was able to locate a friend who knew of her and so I was able to get that phone number. Wow, I called her on the phone. I sang the song to her over the telephone. And I said, Have you ever wanted to do a Christmas book and she says, I’ve always wanted to do a Christmas book so she says, Bonnie, you tell me what you want. And in traditional publishing, I knew if I wrote a children’s book and a publisher, you know, took my manuscript, they had the right to change the title, they only called my title, a working title, because they might choose to do something else with it. But also they have the right to then select the the illustrator really, and I had no say in that. So here I am talking to a real illustrator. And she is asking me for my opinion about the pictures. And she says, You just tell me what you want. And I said, Okay, so we hung up the phone and I was praying, I said, God, I actually have an illustrator that wants my opinion. And I said, Is there something that would be missing from this book if I don’t tell her and then it hit me that it’s accounting book three wise men will have three wisemen, but no baby Jesus, and I reworked the song to put baby Jesus in. So it occurred to me it’s like a Where’s Waldo condition? So I call Ginni back. I said, Hey, can you do a hidden picture? And she goes, I’ve never done a hidden picture. I said, Well, could you just try? Okay, so she mailed me, a bunch of pencil sketches. And then, of course, the day I opened my mailbox and discovered this package from Ginni, and they were delightful. They were just black and white sketches. But it was like, Oh, this would be a delightful book. So we struck a deal and started working on the book so anyway, so God just wove the pieces together. And of course, it’s a counting book. So little people, the three to seven year old. I’m a school teacher, you know, they’re learning. In that stage of life, from three to seven, they learn what’s called the one to one correspondence of counting, right? So when when they get to 12,000 Angels, they actually will, a little person that’s working on counting will actually count to make sure that they found the 12 angels that are on the page, right. So it’s, it’s a fun counting book for the kids. And then the year after the book came out, then I went to Nashville, and had some professional kids singers sing the song they made it a beautiful recording, a man named Don Marsh who’s gotten Dove awards for his work with children. He was my director, and producer. Anyway, and so he made a beautiful song that’s been played on radio stations across America.

Elaine Beck 9:29
That is such an amazing story. I didn’t even want to interrupt you. Usually we have more of a conversation but I wanted to hear your story. I wanted people to hear how this all came together. And it’s beautiful. And and for God to give- but this is what our Lord does. He doesn’t give us something to do unless He gives us the means. The people when he gave me my vision five years ago, He told me I will put the right people at the right I said the right time. He said that to me, He made it very clear. And He made it clear not to ever doubt. And so when we don’t doubt, and we just really listen to His voice, look what he did and how he put it together. So, again, would you please sing it from beginning to end? The whole song, the whole song? There’s only 12 Right?

Bonnie Fite 10:24
There’s only 12. Yeah, but I want to do the countdowns, because that would take almost five minutes.

Elaine Beck 10:29
Just do that. That. Yeah. From beginning to end. Like, like you’re at the end of the song. Okay.

Bonnie Fite 10:35
Okay. So there’ll be 12,000 Angels, 11 people sleeping, 10 prophets predicting nine sheep a-bleating eight shepherds praising, seven kings in waiting, Six chickens clucking, five Roman guards, four elder saints, three wise men to earthly parents and the baby in a manger bed.

Elaine Beck 11:02
Oh, that was beautiful. You have a lovely voice. But I can’t get over the 12 days. It’s beautiful. I love this. I love this for what it’s going to do for the people out there that have small children and older too. I mean, I would be I’m excited about trying to sing it the new, better version. That’s what I’m going to call it the new, better version. But the name that you gave it was…

Bonnie Fite 11:33
The 12 New Days of Christmas.

Elaine Beck 11:35
I love that that. And actually yet, it’s the oldest story ever of the 12 days of Christmas I’m sure. So this is wonderful. But the fun thing is to as you went on forward with this, my understanding you did some plays with it. And you went to Washington and sang in front of the White House with children. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Bonnie Fite 12:02
Sure. You know, I knew when the book came out, people were very excited about it. And people were saying things like, you know- and I had a vision already that there was a way that I could make a musical drama, but then I was hearing from people so I literally grabbed a stack of hymnals because I needed to find a verb I I’m really big on preserving our classic Christmas carols. And so then I had to find a hymn a Christmas carol write a verse of one of the carols that went with each of my characters. So like with the four elder saints, there’s actually most people would never know this but there’s a verse in one of the Christmas carols it says saints before the alter bending are watching long in hope and fear, suddenly the Lord descending in his temple shall appear come and worship come and worship, worship Christ the newborn king. So that became the hymn for day, the for elder saying wow. And it just so happens that what is Ginni do because Zachariah and Elizabeth, you know Zachariah worked in the temple and see meaning Anna, the two elderly people that approached when Jesus was dedicated right happened in the temple. So Ginni, my illustrator had already painted the staints Page the for elder saints with the temple is the backdrop. And so it was like, That’s my verse. And of course God had these hidden away most of them obviously the three wisemen. That was easy. You know, there were multiple I could choose from for that one. Right. But a lot of these ones, there was only one Christmas carol that actually mentioned Joseph and Mary, in the same verse. So of course, that became the one for them. There was only one of all of these that I could not find ever a hymn for And that was the five Roman guards, right. And I’m like, I guess that’s not a happy Christmas theme, you know, the slaughter of the infants in bed like I mean, it truly is the dark part of the Christmas story, right? And so, after exhausting my research and finding nothing, I thought, well, what’s the most somber Christmas Carol? And it occurred to me that Oh, come O Come Emmanuel, which was a Gregorian chant, right? That’s got a very, almost a haunting melody, and everything and so I and so because I couldn’t find something I just said, God, I can’t find one for them. Can you please help me and it was like I literally in my devotions one morning, I got a download from heaven. About what what, what I needed to do with that classic. So I basically wrote what we would call the fifth verse of o come o come Emmanuelle, that then deals with the slaughter.

Elaine Beck 12:11
Could you sing that for us?

Bonnie Fite 14:50
Sure. Oh, take the child and swiftly Run. He will be safe when Your journey is done, for Herod seeks the baby to destroy. And Rachel weeps for all her tiny boys. And you couldn’t sing, Rejoice, rejoice, that is inappropriate at this point. So it has got some new lyrics there as well. Stand fast stand fast. Emmanuelle, shall come to the Israel.

Elaine Beck 15:33
That’s beauitful! I am just, you know, this journey that I’m on, that God has given me to seek out people that are Christians that love Him so much that they are part of His story, which we all are all of His children are. But for me to have had this opportunity to meet so many different people, for God to put them in my life. And that I have the opportunity to share these stories with other people then through this way that we have here now that is, you know, through video through through shows through live streaming, and radio and podcasts, which just will be in all of those forms. And, and just to know that, you know, we’re opening doors for people that they may have never seen or heard about your book. But now they will. So can you tell them how they can reach out to hear about your book, and then we’re going to talk a little bit about the other two.

Bonnie Fite 16:48
Okay, fantastic. Super, yeah, I have a small publishing house called Profound Promises. And so you can purchase them on the web. It’s w w w dot profound promises.com. Or you can actually even place an order over the phone. That’s 703-449-7751. Either way, we can process orders. But obviously, you could get these books for the kids. It does with my Christmas book, I did go into a recording, I went to Nashville and had a Professional Children’s Choir, sing the song. And then and then it’s got a full audiobook attached to that as well. So so you can get the the music along with the Christmas book.

Elaine Beck 17:34
And you even took some of your students. And they sang and came to Washington, and you got some recognition there from even other countries if I recall, right?

Bonnie Fite 17:46
You know, God is amazing. And he’s all about PR. At Christmas time, What does he do? He sends this magnificent choir of angels to get maximum PR to baby Jesus. Anyway. So when we sang at the National Christmas Tree, which is on the steps of the White House. One year, we had somebody from the Middle East Broadcasting Company, bring their camera crew, and we had to sign permission, right to broadcast these children. So anyway, so I don’t even know how many Middle Eastern countries that they they service, but to think that my little kids were singing about. And little boys and girls in the Muslim world could turn on their television and hear from my kids. We another time we had a group that were from Voice of America, a team from Russia. So they interviewed me they interviewed choir parents, they interviewed the kids, they obviously took clips of the kids singing. And then they sent me this thing, you know that they were posting. And of course, they had dubbed everything over in Russian. So it was kind of funny. It’s like, I hope they did the translation on what I had to say. But anyway, it was just it was a delightful thing. But you never know, again, when you step out in obedience, and you say, I want to proclaim Jesus front and center at Christmas time. You never know what God will do with that and who He might send along the way.

Elaine Beck 19:14
I believe that’s pretty much at any time, not just Christmas time. But this is a special season. Absolutely for all of us, His children, but also for him. And so yes, I agree with you. That’s a very special time. So I’m really excited to talk more about your other books. But you guys are going to have to come back and watch another show. Because we’re gonna go to another show after this, and so we’re gonna say goodbye and tell you thank you for being at it’s not about us and hearing Bonnie’s story and her beautiful singing and what God has done in her life and share those With all the families with children, especially give them an opportunity to reach out and get the books. And we’re going to tell you more about her other things on another show. So God bless you. And as you always know, I’m praying for you all.

 

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