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On the fifth day of Christmas...

"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them..." Matthew 5.17

Rings possess a folkloric significance, denoting completeness and eternity. Think of all those Celtic knots and indeed the structure of Ceol Mòr (classical music of the Great Highland Bagpipe), with its circular theme-variations-theme structure. The Olympic symbol of 5 interlocking rings represents the 5 inhabited continents of the world. The 5 gold rings featured in our carol are associated with the first 5 books of the Old Testament, attributed to Moses and constituting the "Law" part of the phrase "Law and Prophets", used as a reference to the full corpus of the Old Testament. The reason the first 5 books are designated "Law" is because they lay the foundation for the worship of Yahweh, the one true God, revealed to Israel through Moses and later to the world in God's only son, Jesus - by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Old and New Testaments are sometimes set in contrast, even conflict, with one another. For example in the same speech from which the quotation above is taken (The Sermon on the Mount), Jesus sets up a list of principles with the phrase: "You have heard that it was said... But I tell you..." repeated with each new addition (Matthew 5. 21-48). Yet he resolves the tension by confirming that his intention is not to abolish or contradict what Moses had stipulated in the Law, but to fulfil and intensify it. So where some have seen abrogation, Jesus claims consistency. But how well do we know this "Law"? And those who claim to be "New Testament Christians" without any interest in, or need of, the Old Testament should reconsider their position. Because Jesus' teaching is based on the Mosaic Law which he inherited - and which indeed he (as God) originally imparted to the world through his servant Moses!

So, if you will receive the Beloved's gift of 5 gold rings, let today be the day we return to those first 5 books of the Bible and take a closer look. It might revolutionise our understanding of everything we read throughout the year ahead...



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