Christmas Carol Classics: God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

“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,
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 Savior 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.”

This song, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (you can listen to it here), is from before the 16th century and was first published in 1760.  It was referenced in Charles Dickens ‘A Christmas Carol’ when the caroler was outside his office at the beginning of the story and Scrooge got very upset with him.  It is believed that this particular carol was sung to the upper class people by town watchmen who earned additional money during the Christmas season.

I love that this song has really withstood the test of time.  We may not really use all the words that are in the song in our day-to-day speaking, but the message of hope within certainly has lasted the centuries.  It’s a reminder of the message of the baby born some 2000 years earlier, that He came to save us, not just to be born.  It’s a reminder of the event that we remember and celebrate each year some 4 months later, that of His death on the cross and following resurrection.  It’s also a call to raise our voices too and join in rejoicing and praising God for sending Jesus to us and for sending all the blessings our way that He does.

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