On this fourth day of the 12 Days of Christmas reminds us of something that we rarely talk talk about. We do not truly deep dive in to the thing that calls us to pay attention.
The song chimes:
On the 4th day of Christmas my true love gave to me 4 Calling Birds
The four calling birds are the the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists. They are Matthew Mark Luke and John. An evangelist is a person who seeks to evangelize—that is, to “announce the good news” to other people. The “good news,” for Christians, is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In the New Testament, the Apostles are considered evangelists, as are those in the broader community of early Christians who go out to “make disciples of all nations.” We see a reflection of this expansive understanding of evangelist in the modern usage of evangelical, to describe a certain type of Protestant who, in supposed contrast to mainline Protestants, is concerned with making converts to Christianity.
Each one of the evangelists has a symbol and history.
- St. Matthew, symbolized by a divine man, was a tax collector, but beyond that fact, relatively little is known about him.
- St. Mark, symbolized by a winged lion, played an important role in the early Church, even though he wasn’t one of the Twelve Apostles and may never have actually met Christ or heard Him preach.
- St. Luke, symbolized by a winged ox, was a companion of Saint Paul, and like Matthew, he is barely mentioned in the New Testament, even though he wrote the longest of the four gospels as well as the Acts of the Apostles.
- St. John, symbolized by a rising eagle was, like Saint Matthew, one of the Twelve Apostles. One of the earliest disciples of Christ, he lived the longest of the Apostles, dying of natural causes at the age of 100. Traditionally, however, he has still been regarded as a martyr for the intense suffering and exile that he endured for the sake of Christ.
When people talk about “the gospel,” there’s only one thing they mean: the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are the four books of the Bible that record almost everything we know about Jesus.
Each of the four gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—paints a unique portrait of Jesus. They show us the same Jesus but portray him from different perspectives.
What are these four unique portraits?
1. Matthew presents Jesus as the Jewish Messiah, the fulfillment of Old Testament hopes.
2. Mark portrays him as the suffering Son of God, who offers himself as a sacrifice for sins.
3. Luke’s Jesus is the Savior for all people, who brings salvation to all nations and people groups.
4. In John, Jesus is the eternal Son of God, the self-revelation of God the Father.
Having four gospels gives us a deeper, more profound understanding of who Jesus is and what he did. They help us reflect on the life, instructions and wisdom of Christ. Spend time with these words.
God’s Word keeps us grounded.
It is very easy, in the midst of our sloppy, busy, stress-filled days, to lose touch with who we are: God’s children. Taking time to read Scripture every day keeps us grounded, reminds us of who we are. Reading Scripture helps us to recall, every day, that Christ is with us – even in the sloppiness, the busy-ness, the stress.
Reading Scripture helps us to pray better.
Every one of us needs to pray better. Prayer is our lifeline to God. Scripture can help us to pray better. We see ourselves reflected in the sorrow, pain and faithfulness of Job. We understand Jonah’s reluctance to do the job God has set before him. We rejoice, laugh, cry and challenge God with the psalmist. We understand the shame of the woman about to be stoned. We tremble with fear, abandoning Christ, just as most of the Apostles did when He most needed them. To enter into God’s word helps us to see, hear, feel and understand basic human responses … and then do better. We rise above our fears, our sorrows, our shame, because we know God is with us. Always. He never abandons us. Scripture is the story of God’s eternal love and faithfulness.