God rest ye merry, gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay
Remember, Christ, our Saviour
Was born on Christmas day
To save us all from Satan’s power
When we were gone astray
O tidings of comfort and joy
I’m sure you’ve seen it: an article written by a Christian somewhere telling all his readers how Christmas is truly about the birth of Jesus, and that the world puts too much emphasis on presents. And he is right in doing so. But the often overlooked, and misinterpreted word in our season’s common greeting “Merry Christmas” is, in fact, also neglected as our main focus. The word “Merry” is often ignored as being a prominent part of our season, perhaps because we are looking with a flawed view.
The traditional, old English Christmas carol “God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman” is a beautiful serenade at this time of the year. However, we do not realize that the words were not to encourage us to lounge around happily in our Christmas sweaters. Instead, the phrase “God rest ye merry gentlemen” actually means “May God make you mighty, gentlemen”. Although one definition of ‘merry’ is happy, the intended meaning in this context was mighty and fearless. In fact, the term “Eat, drink, and be merry” was commonly used on the battlefield in order to prepare soldiers to become conquerors by morning.
Thinking of the term in this sense seems all more appropriate to the festive season. When we imagine Jesus as a dependent baby in a manger, we disregard that He is who makes us more than conquerors.
Romans 8:35-39 says “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?… in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”.
In all honesty, I am a strong advocate for spending yuletide days in your pajamas watching Christmas movies, a bowl of cookie dough in hand. However, as we wish to others a Merry Christmas, and we receive the greeting ourselves, we must remember that throughout the holidays, we are the warriors of Christ, enabled through his love, to bring the world the joy that we feel from his presence.
Wishing you all a Merry Christmas season!