A Word From Steve Jones
April 10th, 2020
Dear Fellowship Family,
Thank you for supporting our Fellowship international and national missionaries, churches, chaplains, and various projects through your prayers!
We are sending this month’s Prayer Partner earlier than normal, so that churches have time to get it to their congregations before Christmas week.
May the Lord bless you and keep you.
Carol Peterson, Communications Administrative Assistant
Dear pastors, missionaries, chaplains and friends,
Steve Jones here…
It all began with a star.
Marilyn and I visited Bethlehem in November 1998. It was probably the biggest disappointment of our two-week Holy Land tour. Our bus passed unkempt homes and derelict, burnt out cars on the streets. The gates of the Nativity Gardens were locked. Our guide sent for the priest in town, but he would not come back to open the gates. He was on lunch. The visit left me disappointed.
Two thousand years earlier, a young couple followed a star to this little unknown village. Their visit to Bethlehem also started as a disappointment. There were no vacancies in any inn or hotel.
However, an animal stall was made available. A makeshift maternity ward awaited them and a small beacon of hope began to flicker, for in this stall the Saviour would be born.
God as a baby?! It is quite unbelievable to ponder: God, as a helpless infant child, unable to talk, eat solid food, or even hold his bladder. It is so inconceivable that only God could imagine it.
If you or I had been part of the planning committee preparing for the Saviour’s birth, we would have presented Him as a valiant, charismatic hero born in the likes of the great imperial city of Rome, not in some little back-water, never-heard-of town like Bethlehem.
God chose humble beginnings. He would grow up in simple surroundings, but he would make some extraordinary claims of Himself. He would claim His divinity. Mohammed revealed himself as a prophet. Buddha was a self-proclaimed philosopher, while Moses was an appointed messenger and law-giver. Only Jesus declared to be God in the flesh, the Emmanuel.
Jesus referred to Himself as the “I AM,” a not so subtle way of identifying Himself as divine. God had come to town to feed the spiritually hungry and heal the spiritual sickness we all suffer from as spiritual orphans.
Dear pastors, missionaries, chaplains and friends,
Do French hens, gold rings, and milking maids have anything to do with Christmas?
Is it possible a beloved Christmas carol might have a deeper, hidden message?
England was a place of religious intolerance and persecution in the sixteenth century. For the next 300 years, people who refused to join the state church developed creative ways to teach their children beliefs dear to the free church. Many used lyrics and song to teach and indoctrinate.
The popular song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” is actually an insurgent, rebel, diatribe against the tenants and teaching of the religious overlords of jolly ol’ England. The song is about a generous benefactor who loved to give. (James 1:17-18). His name is never used other than He is “my true love” referring, of course, to God.
“The Twelve Days of Christmas”
On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…a partridge in a pear tree.
The first gift of this Christmas song is a partridge, a small bird. The original gift of Christmas is Jesus, sent to earth from God. The partridge was known as a valiant bird, willing to fight to the death to defend its young. The pear tree represents the cross.
On the second day…two turtledoves.
For hundreds of years, Jewish families used turtledoves as offerings to God. The gift of two doves is a reminder of the sacrifice offered for Jesus by Mary and Joseph. (Luke 2:22, 24)
On the third day…three French hens.
French hens were valuable poultry during the sixteenth century – only the rich could afford them. These costly birds symbolized the three valuable gifts given to Jesus by the wise men; gold, frankincense, and myrrh. (Matthew 2:11)
On the fourth day…four calling birds.
Like birds calling out with loud and distinctive voices, the four Gospel writers: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John called people to faith in Jesus as their Saviour. (John 20:31)
On the fifth day…five golden rings.
Gold rings are among the most valuable and treasured of all gifts. The five golden rings represent the first five books of the Old Testament: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. These books, written by Moses, were treated with great reverence and considered to be worth far more than gold. (Deuteronomy 34:10, 12)
On the sixth day…six geese a-laying.
In many cultures, eggs symbolize new life. Six geese laying eggs become reminders of the six days of creation when God, by His Word, brought forth life on earth. (Genesis 1:1, 31)
On the seventh day…seven swans a-swimming.
Seven swans symbolize the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. Just as baby swans grow and change from “ugly ducklings” into beautiful and graceful birds, so do God’s children grow and change when they use their gifts to benefit other Christians. (Romans 12:5-6)
On the eighth day…eight maids a-milking.
The eight maidens milking represent eight unique teachings of Jesus, the Beatitudes, which nurture and strengthen us much the way milk nourishes a child. (Matthew 5:3-10)
On the ninth day…nine ladies dancing.
The nine ladies remind us of the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit produced in the lives of God’s children. Just as these ladies dance joyfully, so can every Christian rejoice over the life-changing fruit of the Holy Spirit. (Galatians 5:22-23)
On the tenth day…ten lords a-leaping.
Lords were men with authority to command people’s obedience and symbolize God’s ten basic laws, the Ten Commandments. (Exodus 20:3-17)
On the eleventh day…eleven pipers piping.
Eleven pipers represent the eleven apostles who were chosen by Jesus and remained faithful to Him. Like children joyfully following a piper, the disciples followed Jesus. They piped an everlasting tune of great joy – the salvation message of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. (Romans 6:4)
On the twelfth day…twelve drummers drumming.
Just as drummers beat out a loud, steady rhythm for marchers to follow, so the twelve points in the Apostle’s Creed sets forth the beliefs of those who call themselves Christians.
Just as this beloved song seeks to share the Good News story of Christmas in a creative and innovative way, may we all this Christmas intentionally seek to share the old Christmas story in a creative and winsome way.
Enjoy this wonderful season of the year. And, make sure others see your joy — like the “lords a-leaping?” It has been a long time since I saw a pastor or deacon leaping for joy!