Twelve Songs of Christmas #4
God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen
Each year, my high school marching band played an awesome rendition of God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen at the annual Snowflake Parade in Klamath Falls. There was a great trombone part (great trombone parts were few and far between), so I didn't mind at all that we played the same song year in and year out. It was a good one.
Aside from our *awesome* marching band version, however, I have not always been a big fan of this song. Musically the song is fine, but I am always thrown by Ye Olde English. Many of the sentences are structured strangely, and the song moves at a fast clip, so I never really know what exactly I am singing while I am singing.
God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen is a song about, well, comfort and joy. It acts as a reminder to those who may feel sorrow; who may feel like the weight of the world is on their shoulders; that the Messiah has been born. Christ has come to conquer the forces of sin and death.
This sentiment is loud and clear in the opening verse:
God rest ye merry, gentlemen, let nothing you dismay,
remember Christ our Savior is born upon this day to save us all from Satan's power when we were gone astray.
Or, in other words,
May God make you joyful, do not be distressed. Remember that Christ is born to save us from the power of sin and death.
In addition, in verse four, the angel tells the shepherds not to fear, and points them to the Messiah. The song writer then editorializes the story a bit, and has the angel explain to the shepherds what exactly Christ's birth will accomplish:
"Fear not" then said the angel, "Let nothing you affright; this day is born a Savior of virtue, power, and might, so frequently to vanquish all the friends of Satan quite."
This baby will be so mighty and powerful that he will break the power of Satan in this world.
The song ends with a call to praise:
Now to the Lord sing praises, all you within this place, and with true love and brotherhood each other now embrace.
The holy tide of Christmas all others doth efface.
Find your joy in Christ's birth. Embrace one another in Christian love, because the Savior of the World is born. The power of Christ's birth is greater than other things in this world.
The God who was an ever-present help in trouble (Psalm 46) to the people throughout the Old Testament has now come into the world to conquer the powers of sin and death once and for all. The power of Christ is greater than the other powers in this world, and the "holy tide" of Christ's coming is greater than the sorrows and troubles of this world.