During the past few weeks of Advent, the candles of Peace, Hope, and Joy have been lit.
In four days we will light the Advent candle of love. Peace, Hope, Joy, Love.
Don’t we all yearn for these God-given gifts in our lives?
The Holy Spirit, our Comforter, helps us to keep these sacred gifts of Peace, Hope, Joy, and Love in our Soul and to use them appropriately and abundantly.
As with any gifts received, a thankful and appreciative heart brings us closer to the gift-giver.
Our God, the giver of gifts.
Though we find out soon enough that every gift does not come our way. Everyone cannot be a scientist, musician, artist, or a singer. From as long as I can remember, I wanted to be able to sing. At the Little Red Schoolhouse as a four year old, I already knew my voice was not as good as the others. My new best friend, Anna, had just arrived from Germany and my teacher, Mrs. Cook, asked me to be her buddy. She spoke no English but that makes no difference with children. Mom would drive us back and forth to pre-school and I’d teach my friend everything I knew. One thing that Anna excelled at was singing. I still can hear her beautiful rendition of Silent Night in German for the Christmas concert.
As the years past I was wise enough never to join any singing group or choir. I knew how I sounded. But, I really wanted to. So much that I could taste it. However, I always encouraged others to join. This Fall, my husband started encouraging me. Our son who joined the choir with his dad, had a conflict on practice night. Should I join? Could I join? What about my legendary ‘less than stellar’ voice? “You’ll blend in”, my sweet husband said. The first night of practice, I was scared, like a shy teen scared. Because what if…my voice cracks or worse, I cannot carry a tune. I hoped for the best and right away found the joy of singing I’d always dreamt of having (“I know, I’m a simple person!”). As the Fall concert approached Peace, that elusive element, invaded my soul. I loved everything about the ‘choir experience’!
Then, on the 22nd of November, we had an overwhelming medical emergency in our household. My heart stopped. Despair overtook me and I felt empty for the first time in five years. Since I’d not been singing for a lifetime (except in the shower) I’d had to practice at home. But, now, there was no singing in my soul. No singing in my heart. There was only sadness. I’d have to tell the choir director that I needed to quit the Christmas choir. It was the right thing to do. My husband, my rock, coaxed me into just coming to one more practice. He hoped it would work. People say that marriages that are as long as ours are hard-wired to their spouse’s inner needs. It did work; and, as the Joy candle was lit, I was there singing my little heart out. hmmm…Peace, Hope, Joy, Love~ Advent’s harmony!
As Advent unfolds to reveal the precious gift that God has given mankind in the form of a Savior offering salvation, the cross is evident. The death and resurrection of our Lord is foretold in Old Testament Scripture and in David’s Psalms. The shepherds who first saw the baby Jesus were watching over lambs to be sacrificed at the upcoming Passover. Foreshadowing the death of Christ is the wise men’s gift of myrrh as we read in the New Testament books of Matthew, Mark and John. Myrrh is given to Jesus before his crucifixion and later used to wrap His body as was tradition. The baby, visited by sacrificial lambs and their shepherds, who would be sacrificed himself for our salvation, who broke through death and is alive, gifted us with His humanity and majesty. As we stand in awe there is only one response. And that is to fall on our knees in worship.
Advent allows us to grow in many ways as we mature in our faith. Still, gifts seem to always be at the centre of the season. Yesterday, I found the perfect gift for a loved one. But I didn’t really, did I? God provided that. Christ, the perfect gift, given for all is also just for me. Me alone. And you and you and you. For all of us. It is hard to comprehend isn’t it? The magnitude of it all.
In John Bunyon’s classic allegorical tale first published in 1678, Pilgrim’s Progress: Journey to Heaven, a man named Christian travels with other pilgrims on a precarious journey fraught with dangers and demons from the City of Destruction to the Gates of Heaven. We read about the story of Christian and his fellow pilgrims who face a multitude of obstacles and land-mines of hardship. There is much to learn about our own faithful walk and the necessities of hope and joy in the fulfillment of peace and love through Christ our Lord in this timeless tale.
However, Christmastime in the year 2016 is more circumspect than that of our parents generation, especially in the public sector. We have some university students who proudly wear a badge of honor of atheism. Professors are bold to promote a more skewed scientific, God-less society in a brash new-age. People are unsure of the goodness of God and, by the way, who is ‘Grace’? To many, the natural world seems safer, less weird, and more secure. The spiritual world of the Trinity appears to them to be impractical, unapproachable, outlandish. We know this to be a false narrative.
But, it’s nothing like a time 3 ½ centuries ago when faith was outlawed. God’s children used their creative gifts and made up a Christmas carol couched in mystery and under the guise of a children’s folk song. Parents wanted their children to know the Christian tenets without oppression. So, they made up The Twelve Days of Christmas, the song we still love to sing today.
Our God, the giver of gifts.
The carol The Twelve Days of Christmas is all about gifts, God’s gifts:
The ‘true love’ is Our God, the giver of gifts, because truly Love was born on Christmas Day; and, the ‘me’ who receives these presents is the Christian. (How lucky are we?)
The ‘partridge in a pear tree’ was Jesus Christ who died on a tree as a gift from God.
The ‘two turtle doves’ were the Old and New Testaments, another gift from God.
The ‘three French hens’ were faith, hope, & love: the three abiding gifts of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 13)
The ‘four calling birds’ were the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) which sing the song of
salvation through Jesus Christ.
The ‘five Golden rings’ signify the ‘Books of Moses’, the first 5 books of the Bible which describe
man’s sinful fall and the great love of God in sending a Savior.
The ‘six geese a-laying’ were the six days of creation.
The ‘seven swans a-swimming’ were the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. “Prophesy, Serving, Teaching,
Exhortation, Contribution, Leadership, and Mercy.”
The ‘eight maids a-milking’ were the eight beatitudes.
The ‘nine ladies dancing’ were nine fruits of the Holy Spirit. “Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness,
Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-Control”
The ‘ten lords a-leaping’ were the Ten Commandments.
The ‘eleven pipers piping’ were the eleven faithful disciples.
The ‘twelve drummers drumming’ were the twelve points of belief in the Apostles Creed.
Our Apostles Creed.
We have been given gifts! God-given gifts. Let’s use them wisely.
Peace Hope Joy Love. Alleluia!
Our God, the giver of gifts. by © D. Raborn