Monthly Archives:

hi archyive

2020 Advent Devotional – Day 24

Sing

I Saw Three Ships
Traditional English carol, 17th century, published c. 1833

“And all the souls on Earth shall sing”

Video: I Saw Three Ships


Reflection

This popular carol has emerged from a long and meandering folk tradition, being found in different parts of England and Scotland with different lyrics, until the version we sing today was published in 1833. As the lyrics changed so too did the occupants of the ships. Joseph and Mary appear in one version, where “he did whistle and she did sing,” along with St Michael and St John in places. St Michael is even put to work steering the boat.

None of this, of course, explains why the ships are even sailing into Bethlehem, which if you look at a map is landlocked. Equally incongruous is the idea of Mary being on the boat, arriving in Bethlehem just in time to give birth, let alone Jesus himself. And many over the years have also been quick to point out that two people don’t usually need three boats.

In further attempts to explain the carol, it has been associated with the three ships that carried the relics of the magi from the Middle East to Cologne, Germany, in the twelfth century. Or perhaps the three ships are in fact a reference to the camels – the “ships of the desert” – used by the magi on their journey.

What is unmistakable is the sense of joy that the carol evokes, and indeed the call to be joyful that the carol declares. As bells ring out across the world, and angels sing in heaven, we are also called to sing and rejoice. The repeating lyrics of this carol make it easy and remind us that praising God doesn’t need to be complicated or lengthy or solemn. It doesn’t need a special place or time; right now is perfect. It’s as simple as singing a carol and letting yourself smile and your heart lighten.


Uplifting God,
Be in my heart today and help me feel the joy and delight of your love for me. Let my soul sing with gratitude and thanksgiving at the gift of your son, Jesus Christ. Prompt me to find a moment today to let go of any anxieties, and to give myself over to the joy of praising you. May my voice rise to proclaim your glory and the joy of your love. Amen.


Reading

I Saw Three Ships

I saw three ships come sailing in
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day;
I saw three ships come sailing in
On Christmas Day in the morning.

And who was in those ships all three,
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day?
And who was in those ships all three,
On Christmas Day in the morning?

Our Saviour Christ and his lady,
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day;
Our Saviour Christ and his lady,
On Christmas Day in the morning.

Pray whither sailed those ships all three,
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day?
Pray whither sailed those ships all three,
On Christmas Day in the morning?

O they sailed into Bethlehem,
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day;
O they sailed into Bethlehem,
On Christmas Day in the morning.

And all the bells on Earth shall ring,
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day;
And all the bells on Earth shall ring,
On Christmas Day in the morning.

And all the angels in Heaven shall sing,
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day;
And all the angels in Heaven shall sing,
On Christmas Day in the morning.

And all the souls on Earth shall sing,
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day;
And all the souls on Earth shall sing,
On Christmas Day in the morning.

Then let us all rejoice again
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day;
Then let us all rejoice again
On Christmas Day in the morning.


If you’re enjoying the carols each day, there’s now a YouTube playlist you can listen to that contains all the carols shared so far. The playlist will grow as the devotional series progresses, with each day’s carol being added. By Christmas Day, you’ll have the perfect soundtrack of worship and praise.  Click here to listen.


Thank you for joining us on this prayerful path through Advent.
Blessings and best wishes for 2021.