Subject: Christmas Carols and the Gospel of Jesus Christ: “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen”
Nehemiah 8:10 “Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
One of the best things about the Christmas season is the beautiful uplifting music. These songs not only bring a real warmth to our souls, but they also contain a deep inspirational message that reminds us of the true meaning for our lives. One such carol is “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen.” It goes like this: “God rest ye merry, gentlemen; Let nothing you dismay; Remember, Christ, our Savior; Was born on Christmas day; To save us all from Satan’s power; When we were gone astray; O tidings of comfort and joy.” We don’t really know who wrote this carol, but it was very popular in the Middle Ages with the peasants because of its uplifting message. The problem in America today is we have lost the true meaning behind its message.
When we say “Merry Christmas”, we mean “happy”. Back then, the language of the day used the word “merry” to mean “mighty”. The word “rest” to us would mean “relax”. But the original meaning is “keep”. And finally, we usually put the comma after the word “Ye”, but the original author places the comma after “Merry”. So the people back then defined the song by the title “God Keep You Mighty, Gentlemen.”
Now we can examine this carol by tying a key word in each verse with a bible verse that explains its original meaning. Verse 1a says “God KEEP ye merry, gentlemen”. Isaiah 26:3 shows us what “keep” means: “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.”
Verse 1b says: “God keep ye MIGHTY, gentlemen”. Ephesians 6:10 explains “mighty” for us: “Be strong in the Lord, and in His mighty power.” So, line 1 has nothing to do with us being mighty. We are mighty only through the might of the Lord Jesus Christ, who gives might to those who trust in Him.
Verse 2 says: “Let nothing you DISMAY”. Psalm 46:10 tells us to “Be still, and know that I am God.” To be dismayed means to be in distress. “Be still” means “stop struggling or distressing”. It’s the same words used by Jesus when He told the storm at sea to “Be still” (Mark 4:39). It is He who can calm the storms in our lives, when we place our trust in Him to save us.
Verses 3 and 4 say: “Remember, Christ, our SAVIOR was BORN on Christmas day”. Luke 2:11 clarifies: “There is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” This is the Incarnation, when God became a man. Jesus Christ is qualified to be our Savior because as God in the flesh, He is the only perfect, sinless Person who has ever lived.
Line 5 says: “To SAVE us all from Satan’s power”. Hebrews 2:14 explains: “Inasmuch as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through (His) death He might destroy him who had the power over death, that is, the devil.” In Mark 10:45, Jesus said “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” By His death on the Cross, He became our ransom to free us from death’s power. As Pastor Alistair Begg says, “God became a man for our sake, to pay the debt He did not owe, to save us from the debt we owe that we cannot pay.”
Line 6 says: “When we were gone ASTRAY”. Isaiah 53:6 explains: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; the Lord has laid on Him the sins of us all.” We ALL are sinners. We all need forgiveness for the guilt we carry over the things we have done.
Line 7 says: “O tidings of COMFORT and JOY”. Jesus explains in Matthew 5:4 what is meant by ‘comfort’: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” And in our verse for this week, Nehemiah explains that our might or strength comes from our joy in knowing what God the Father through His Son Jesus Christ has accomplished for me: “Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
In his best-selling book ‘The Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas’, author Ace Collins explains that it is the responsibility of those of us who know the Gospel of Jesus Christ to share it during the Christmas season: “So many, at Christmas time, will never hear or see the true reason for this holiday which is Christ’s birth. The activities, the distractions, the lack of time and money, will rob most of this important message. We, as mighty men and women, can make a difference this Christmas by living our faith before them. Amid the holly and the tinsel, we can tell them that Christ was born to die and that, in Him, we might live forever. God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen is more than just a Christmas carol. It’s our rallying song to show the world that, at Christmas time, things aren’t always what they appear to be.”