“But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord’” Luke 2:10-11 NIV
For example, when we hear the lyric “God rest you merry, gentlemen” it may sound like an admonishment: “You are being too merry gentlemen, I think you should rest.” This confusion is because the meanings of the words have changed over time (also because we need to be sure to put the comma after ‘merry’ and not before). ‘Rest’ in this context did not mean relax as we recognize it today, but ‘to keep or to remain,’ so ‘God rest you merry’ was a phrase that originally meant something like ‘God keep you in good spirits.’ In fact, long before this song was published in 1760, the phrase was commonly spoken as a greeting (Shakespeare even used it in his play As You Like It in 1599!).
So how can we find meaning from these antiquated words today? After the opening lyric, the song continues: “let nothing you dismay/Remember Christ our savior was born upon this day/ To save us all from Satan’s power when we were gone astray/Oh tidings of comfort and joy.” The whole message is conveying that we should not feel dismayed by anything because we remember this day that Jesus was born to save us from our sins, and our Christmas season is to celebrate the joy we can only find in Christ.
If you are feeling overwhelmed this December with the number of Christmas parties to attend, homemade cookies that need to be sent to school, what present to buy for which child, and what relatives need to be seated together at Christmas dinner, then remember what the angel told the shepherds on that miraculous night: “I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2:10b-11, NIV). Don’t be stressed by material things, for the savior has come. Spread the good news! What a miracle! Put down that wrapping paper, get the flour out of your hair, and rejoice! I bet your spirits will be raised.
God rest you merry,
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