Tuesday, December 27, 2011
Minister for Children and Families
And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13.13
Happy Third Day of Christmas! Today is Three French Hens Day. I’m sure everyone knows by now that Christmas is not a day; it’s a Season, the shortest Season of the Church Calendar and the only one that actually has start and end calendar dates; the other Seasons determined by cycles of the moon, harvests and other factors. But, consistently, Christmastide lasts from December 25 to January 6, when Epiphany begins.
The old Christmas song about the Twelve Days refers specifically to the short Season and each of the Days has for all a symbolic gift from God. God is the “true love” mentioned at the beginning of each new verse and today’s gift is of Three French Hens, which, coming from God, translate to the three theological or cardinal virtues. They find their origin in the verse from 1 Corinthians. The NRSV translates them as faith, hope and love, but I prefer some earlier translations that call them “Faith, Hope, and Charity.”
The way I see the Christmas season, which most people picture happening in December and ending on the 25th, it is a time when many people are in a more charitable mood than they are any other time of the year. It seems more appropriate to give to the less fortunate in front of a backdrop of snowflakes and holly somehow, but to our Medieval ancestors who invented the Seasons, the 25th was just the beginning.
Just as in our day, theirs was a society with a tremendous gap between the rich and the poor and such needs made acts of Christmas charity to require much more time than one day. Remember, they were doing the work of the “true love”; of God, whose love was selfless, unconditional, and voluntary. This way of thinking today would mean that our opportunities to give fourth with Christmas charity have just begun…and not just from our leftovers. Three French Hens were beautiful and exotic birds in those days and could be shared only by the very rich.
May my giving know no Seasons.
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