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On the fourth day of Christmas...

"I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness..." John 1.23

Is "calling" a genetic feature of the four birds in the carol - calling birds, as opposed to singing birds or crying birds - or is it what they happen to be doing? In which case the question is begged: for what are they calling? In fact, it appears that in older versions they are referred to as "colly" birds. The word "colly" derives from "coal-y", ie the colour of coal, which may identify these birds as blackbirds, which would be appropriate because blackbirds are vocal!

So, we have four noisy blackbirds. Might they represent the four Gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke, John - proclaiming, calling even, that in his life, death, resurrection and ascension Jesus is the promised Messiah, foretold by the prophets of the Old Testament and hailed by John at the beginning of the New.? The fit is a good one and especially poignant on the day when tradition exhorts us to remember the first Christian martyrs: all the new-born baby-boys around Bethlehem whom Herod slaughtered when he heard about the birth of a rival king. In that sense, the avian chorus might also be raised on behalf of the innocents who continue to be oppressed, persecuted and killed around the world today, many of them on account of their faith.

Shall we add our own voices? Calling out in witness to the fulfilment of our hopes and dreams in the Christ-child - now grown, crucified, raised, glorified and coming again in power. Calling out in outrage at the cruelty of Herod and others of his like through the ages. Calling out on behalf of those who suffer today. Calling out on behalf of those who have no voice - through captivity, marginalisation, or exhaustion. Calling, calling, calling...



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