Advent Four: Love
For God loved the world so much that he gave the unique Son of God ...
John 3:16 (Living Bible)
We have heard this verse from the Gospel of John countless times in our lives. It is quoted so often as it holds within it something of a summary of the entire Gospel and Christ coming to us. As we prepare to enter the fourth and final week of Advent, the theme is love. Sometimes I find as Christians we, myself included, speak about the love of God rather casually, which on one level is understandable because God’s love is the air we have breathed and the food we have eaten for our entire lives. Yet when we give ourselves some moments to truly grasp the height and depth, the length and breadth of this love, we invite God’s Spirit to continue its transformative work in our lives through the power of this love. In all of the busyness of these next weeks, my hope for us all is that we will in the quietness of our hearts find a resting place in the truth of how greatly we are love, and how out of that love God acted ... for God so loved ... that he gave.
All I want to say to you is,
“You are the beloved,”
And all I hope is
That you can hear
As spoken to you
With all the tenderness
That love can hold.
My only desire is
To make these
In every corner
Of your being.
From Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World
Some people are unsure of the meaning of Advent. This short Youtube video might help you understand it better.
Advent Family materials from Illustrated Ministries can be found here.
Readings and Prayers for Advent from the Diocese of Brandon can be found here on our Diocesan website
The Twelve Days of Christmas
The twelve days of Christmas, as a festival, have a long history. According to one source, it was first mentioned as a festal tide by the eastern Father, Ephraem Syrus, at the end of the fourth century, and was declared to be such by the western Council of Tours in 567 A.D. The laws of Ethelred (991-1016) ordained it to be a time of peace and concord among Christians, when all strife must cease — perhaps the beginning of the traditional Christmas truces observed up through World War I. The twelve days count from Christmas Day to the feast of the Epiphany, January 6.
On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, a partridge in a pear tree. The partridge in a pear tree symbolizes Christ Jesus, the Word made flesh, the Son of God.
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! Matthew 23:37.
On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave o me, two turtle doves.
The two turtle doves symbolize the Old and the New Testaments which together bear witness to God’s self-revelation in history and the creation of the people to tell the story of God to the world.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In his was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never put it out. John 1: 1-5.
On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, three french hens.
Three french hens are and were extremely expensive and treasured fowl. They symbolize the three theological virtues given from God and poured into our hearts: 1) Faith; 2) Hope, and 3) Love.
If I speak the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3; 13.
On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, four calling birds.
The four calling birds or ‘colly birds meaning black birds’ symbolize the Four Gospels: 1) Matthew, 2) Mark, 3) Luke and 4) John.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came for testimony, to bear witness to the light that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness to the light. The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world new him not. He came to his own home, and his own people received him not. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father. (John bore witness to him and cried “This was he of whom I said, “he who comes after me ranks before me, for he was before me.’”). John 6-15.
On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, five golden rings.
The five gold rings probably refer to the five gold rings that can be found on the ringed necked pheasants. In the context of this symbolism the five gold rings refers to the first Five Books of the Old Testament, known as the Torah or the Pentateuch: 1) Genesis, 2) Exodus, 3, Leviticus, 4) Numbers and 5) Deuteronomy, which gives the history of humanity’s triumphs and failure in sinfulness and God’s response of grace in the creation of a people to be a light to the world.
And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. Luke 24: 25-27.
On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, six geese-a-laying. Eggs are an almost universal symbol of new life, fertility and resurrection. The Six Geese A-laying symbolize the six days of creation that confesses God as Creator and Sustainer of the world.
And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning a sixth day. Thus the heavens and the earth were finished and all the host of them, And on the seventh day God finished his work which he had done and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had done. Genesis 1:31, Genesis 2: 1-2.
On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, seven swans-a-swimming. The seven swans a-swimming symbolize the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: 1) prophecy, 2) ministry, 3) teaching, 4) exhortation, 5) giving, 6) leading, and 7) compassion. The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit can also be described as wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord. They may also describe the seven sacraments of the Church: Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Eucharist, Penance, Extreme Unction (Last Rites), Holy Orders (ordination) and Matrimony.
To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are inspired by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. 1 Corinthians 12: 7 - 11.
On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, eight maids-a-milking.
The maids who milked the cows were the least of the servants in a home. The eight maids a-milking symbolize the eight Beatitudes: 1) Blessed are the poor in spirit, 2) those who mourn, 3) the meek, 4) those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, 5) the merciful, 6) the pure in heart, 7) the peacemakers, 8) those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.
You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. Let your light so shine before all, that they may see your good works and give you glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5: 14 - 16.
On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, nine ladies dancing.
The nine Ladies dancing symbolize the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit. The early church honoured the Holy Spirit as the face of the Divine Feminine. The nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit are: 1) love, 2) joy, 3) peace, 4) patience, 5) kindness, 6) generosity, 7) Faithfulness, 8) gentleness, and 9) self-control. They may also remind us of the nine choirs of angels (In ascending order): 1. Angels; 2) Archangels, 3) Principalities; 4. Powers; 5) Virtues, 6) Dominations, 7) Thrones, 8) Cherubim and 9) Seraphim.
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. Acts 2:1-4.
On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, ten lords-a-leaping.
The Ten Lords a-leaping symbolize the ten commandments: 1) You shall have no other gods before me; 2) Do not make an idol; 3) Do not take God’s name in vain; 4) Remember the Sabbath Day; 5) Honour your father and mother; 6) Do not murder; 7) Do not commit adultery; 8) Do not steal; 9) Do not bear false witness; 10) Do not covet.
Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them. For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5: 17-19.
On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, eleven pipers piping. The eleven pipers piping symbolize the eleven faithful Apostles: 1) Simon Peter, 2) Andrew, 3) James, the Great, 4) John, 5) Phillip, 6 Bartholomew, 7) Matthew, 8) Thomas, 9) James bar Alphaeus (James the Less), 10) Simon the Zealot, 11 Jude (aka Thaddeus), The list does not include the twelfth disciple, Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus to the religious leaders and the Romans.
So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:6-8
On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, twelve drummers drumming.Reading: The 12 drummers drumming symbolize the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostles’ Creed:
1) I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. 2) I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. 3) He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. 4) He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell. 5) On the third day He rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. 6) He will come again to judge the living and the dead. &) I believe in the Holy Spirit, 8) the Holy Catholic Church, 9) the communion of saints, 10) the forgiveness of sins, 11) the resurrection of the body, 12) and life everlasting.
And from His fullness have we all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known. John1:17
Prayer for Advent
In the long nights of December,
We listen, Lord, for the words you speak.
How can we hear you
When the markets and machines are so loud,
When the sellers and the entertainers
clamor for our every attention?
Still we would listen for you
And hear of wars so we may long for peace, And hear of oppression
So we may long for justice,
And hear of hunger so we may long for you. Then make a path, O God,
So righteousness and peace
Shall meet and shall kiss
And with that kiss, with that glory,
Shall we and this good creation
Praise and bless your coming. Amen.
Advent Wreath Song
A candle is burning, a flame warm and bright; A candle of Hope in December's dark night.
While Joseph dreams deeply under heav'n's starry sky Our hearts we prepare now, for Jesus is nigh.
A candle is burning, a candle of Peace; A candle to signal that fighting must cease. For Jesus is coming to show us the way; A message of Peace humbly laid in the hay.
A candle is burning, a candle of Joy; A candle to welcome brave Mary's new boy. Our hearts fill with wonder and eyes light and glow, as Joy brightens winter like sunshine on snow.
A candle is burning, a candle of Love; A candle to point us to heaven above. A baby for Christmas, a wonderful birth; For Jesus is bringing God's Love to our earth.