Rest…and MIGHT!

Church songs have often been ‘stuffy’ over the years.

This is not a new phenomenon–more that 500 years ago, church songs–even about Christmas–were serious and somber, and there was little that the ‘everyday man’ could do about it. They had no power to change “The Church”.

So, what did they do? They started to write songs about Christmas that were ‘Folk Songs’, sung outside the church.

These were the first ‘Christmas Carols’.

One song sung around that time was one that we often associate with Charles Dickens and England in the 1800s, but was written to be a merry, joyous song about the most joy-producing event ever: The Birth of Jesus Christ.

This song, “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen!” has been sung ever since.

Originally this song’s emphasis was not on ‘resting’ because of birth of Christ, but that the birth of Christ made men MIGHTY to do the things He wanted, and to overcome Satan!

One way of interpreting the first line of the song–according to today’s reading–is something like “Rest and be Merry, gentlemen! Don’t worry dismay–remember that Christ has been born!”

The way it was originally understood, however, was more like this: “God make you Mighty, Gentlemen! No matter where you come from, remember that Jesus has come to conquer the enemy, and save us from his power!”

As you read the lyrics of the song, think of these two contrasts:

Was God giving us ‘rest’ and ‘peace’ by sending Jesus on that first Christmas night, OR

Was God equipping us for battle to defeat the enemy (satan) hand-in-hand marching together?

I think both are true, but singing the song with the former intent encourages me to settle in and take it easy, celebrating His love, while latter intent makes me more willing to go out in the power and strength of the Lord, taking the battle to the enemy.

Listen to (or read) the song now.

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,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

In Bethlehem, in Israel,
This blessed Babe was born
And laid within a manger
Upon this blessed morn
The which His Mother Mary
Did nothing take in scorn
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

From God our Heavenly Father
A blessed Angel came;
And unto certain Shepherds
Brought tidings of the same:
How that in Bethlehem was born
The Son of God by Name.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

“Fear not then,” said the Angel,
“Let nothing you affright,
This day is born a Saviour
Of a pure Virgin bright,
To free all those who trust in Him
From Satan’s power and might.”
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

The shepherds at those tidings
Rejoiced much in mind,
And left their flocks a-feeding
In tempest, storm and wind:
And went to Bethlehem straightway
The Son of God to find.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

And when they came to Bethlehem
Where our dear Saviour lay,
They found Him in a manger,
Where oxen feed on hay;
His Mother Mary kneeling down,
Unto the Lord did pray.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

Now to the Lord sing praises,
All you within this place,
And with true love and brotherhood
Each other now embrace;
This holy tide of Christmas
All other doth deface.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

Consider and Discuss:

In what ways does God use Jesus to bring us Peace and Joy?

In what ways does He equip us for battle, through Jesus?\

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