Four Calling Birds

(NOTE: This series of blogs covers the twelve days of Christmas – Dec. 25th through Jan. 5th – and is based on the Christmas song, The Twelve Days of Christmas.)

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 “On the fourth day of Christmas my True Love gave to me, four Calling Birds…”

Something has been lost in translation! In the old English in which the song, Twelve Days of Christmas, was written, the phrase is not “calling birds” but “Colly (or Collie) Birds.”

What is a Colly Bird? In England a coal mine is called a colliery. Colly (or collie) comes from the word colliery, meaning “black like coal.” Thus, a Colly Bird is a Black Bird, or maybe a large Raven. Ravens are magnificent birds known for their acrobatic flying and superb hunting skills. Often, Ravens will hunt in groups, working together to bring down bigger prey then they could as individuals.

“On the fourth day of Christmas my True Love game to me, four Colly Birds…”

What gifts has our True Love given us that work as a team to bring down the enemy? God has given us four such gifts: (1) Matthew. (2) Mark. (3) Luke. (4) John. The Gospels are the four Colly Birds referred to on the fourth day of Christmas. Each tells the story of Jesus from a different angle, but when they are read together a marvelous and powerful drama unfolds.

The Gospels are not a biography of Jesus, and to read them as such is to miss the beauty of what is being told. The Gospels tell us the story of Jesus, proclaiming Him to be the Messiah. The Gospels record key events of Jesus’ life, His teachings, His miracles, His healings, His death and His resurrection. All of these events point to Him being the Promised One of God.

After His baptism, at the announcement of His ministry, Jesus proclaimed, “The right time has come. The kingdom of God is near. Change your hearts and lives and believe the Good News!” (Mark 1:15). The Greek word in the New Testament that is translated “Good News” (and sometimes translated “gospel”) is the word evangelium and literally means “good message.” But even that translation doesn’t do the word justice!

In the Roman world, evangelium meant “joyful tidings,” and was used to announce birthdays of emperors, which were seen as festival occasions for the whole world. Usually a town crier would go to the public square and announce the “good news” of the birth of a king. The birth of a new emperor was seen as a life changing, world altering event.

By using the word evangelium the Gospel writers were proclaiming Jesus’ coming as an event that would change all of human history. The story of Jesus, as told in the Gospels, was an event that would outweigh any birth of any human ruler. Because of the birth of Jesus, things would be radically different in a good way. For Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, “gospel” had to do with the announcement of the promised Messiah, the Emperor of emperors, the King of kings.

The four Gospel writers, like four beautiful and powerful ravens (colly birds) work together, proclaiming the good news of Jesus, defeating all enemies who try and destroy their testimony.

Today, on the fourth day of Christmas, choose one of the Gospels and read it through. (Here is the hint: Mark was the first gospel written, and the shortest.)

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