“On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree.”
Imagination often gets a bad rap. Maybe you have a childhood memory of a
parent, not believing your story, telling you, “You’ve got
quite an imagination.” But so did Jesus! The parables he told were
not necessarily actual events but were often drawn from his own imagination
to teach eternal truths. And what he imagined was drawn from daily life:
cloth, wine, lamp, seeds, birds, fishing nets, vineyard, sheep, goats. On
Jesus described himself as a hen! “How
often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her
chicks under her wings” (Luke 13:34). So, following Jesus is like
It is hardly surprising that Christians
could imagine significance in a popular folk song apart from anything
originally intended. How many pastors have been surprised to hear what
their sermon meant to people apart from anything they thought they were
saying! The Spirit works as it wills and often in strange ways indeed!
So it is that three hens – “French hens,”
the most delicious of all, first bred in France centuries ago – came
to classify faith, hope, and love. These are the “theological
virtues,” so called because they cannot be shared with others until
first received as gifts of true love, the love of God (theo-).
We know it’s more blessed to give than to receive. But
sometimes the best gift of all is the willingness to receive. When we give,
we’re in control. When we receive, someone else is. And it can be
hard to receive because then we’re dependent. Most of us would prefer
to be independent. But where does that leave someone who really wants to
give us something special – like God? Are we as good at opening gifts
as we are at giving them?
How well we ourselves give
depends on how much we appreciate what we receive. In faith, hope, and love
may we give back, thankful for all we have been given.