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Glorious Arrival

Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.1


In the Middle Ages families would stand at the harbor and watch ships sail away, often carrying away friends and family members they loved. These long sea voyages were always uncertain as storms would arise and ships could sink or be left in shipwreck. Pirates or enemy vessels could attack. Sickness and starvation could occur. When loved ones sailed away, family and friends that stayed behind didn't know if they would ever see or speak to them again. There were no telegraphs, phones, or emails to send word if anything went wrong. But imagine when, months or even years later, you saw a returning ship. Imagine the hope and the joy as you watched the ship get closer and closer praying that the person you loved was returning home.


The Christmas carol, “I Saw Three Ships”, is not a well-known song. You may have heard it once or twice before, but it may not be as familiar as our more common carols. It is a folk song that has been changed many times, to reflect the times. In each version of the song, however, the three ships are arriving, carrying a treasure or something or someone special. Throughout the years, the lyrics spoke of different Bible characters who rode the ships to Bethlehem. Today those words are about Mary and Joseph and soon-to-be-born Jesus— even though ships were not needed for their journey to Bethlehem.


The deeper truth in this song is the joyous arrival of our Messiah, Jesus. It is also a wondrous reminder that, although he went away, Jesus will return! Just as people rejoiced when they saw those ancient ships pull into the harbor, we too, hope and will rejoice on that glorious day when Jesus returns!


I saw three ships come sailing in,

On Christmas day, on Christmas day…

All they sailed into Bethlehem,

On Christmas day, on Christmas day…


And all the bells on Earth shall ring…

And all the angels in Heaven shall sing…

And all the souls on Earth shall sing,

On Christmas day, On Christmas day…


And let us all rejoice again,

On Christmas day, on Christmas day.

And let us all rejoice again,

On Christmas day in the morning!2


Suggested Prayer: Dear Lord, the earth rejoiced at your arrival on that Holy night in Bethlehem and it is still the most celebrated day of the year. Thank you for the promise that you are coming back for your children. I am filled with joy at the hope of your return! In Jesus’ name, Amen.


  1. Matthew 24:44 (NKJV).

  2. “I Saw Three Ships” Author unknown.


Today’s Encounter was written by: Veronica B.


All articles on this website are written by
Richard (Dick) Innes unless otherwise stated.