***originally published on Whole Magazine December 20, 2014***
I can hardly think of a greater time of turmoil and unrest in our country than right now. No matter what direction you are looking, you cannot deny that between the protests in Ferguson, Cleveland, and New York, as well as the Ebola scare, the subpoenas of pastoral sermons in Houston, and confusion over immigration reform (the list goes on and on), it is easy to see that the world is not looking good. Distrust, violence, protest, abuse, hurt, and fear deem to reign supreme.
Not so for the Christian.
I implore you to believe and proclaim the following over this Christmas season– no matter how dark, no matter how hard Satan may try to split the body or divide our country:
“God rest ye merry, gentleman, let nothing you dismay! Remember Christ, our Savior, was born on Christmas day. To save us from Satan’s power when we were gone astray! O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy! O tidings of comfort and joy!”
This carol, “God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman,” sings of Christ’s birth and the comfort and joy that is ours.
Yes, even the shepherds minding their sheep in a nearby field are exhorted to celebrate the birth of the Christ child.
That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t’ be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior – yes, the Messiah, the Lord – has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”
Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others – the armies of heaven – praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”
(Luke 2:8-14 NIV)
I imagine before Christ’s arrival that times were also chaotic and dark.
Picture a life without Christ…not the life you lived before you accepted Him as your Savior, but literally think B.C. era.
If you think sin is crashing down around us now, I do not think you would like to know what life was like before we were given the hope of the Messiah. People were no doubt afraid.
I am not always the grammar police, but I did check on the grammar of the phrase “God rest ye merry, gentleman,” and discovered the way it is written now is exactly how it was written originally. I make this statement with the awareness that the shepherds were not “merry gentleman” prior to the angel’s arrival.
When the angel told the shepherds to not be afraid, he probably meant that they should not be afraid of the angel himself.
I have personally never seen an angel, but some of them are described in the Bible as pretty interesting. Seraphim (Isaiah) is said to have six wings: two covering the face, two covering the feet, and two for flying. Cherubim (Genesis, Ezekiel) is said to have four wings and be covered in eyes. The Four Living Creatures described in Revelation have six wings, are covered in eyes, and look like a lion-ox-man-eagle.
I can certainly understand why the shepherds were completely terrified of this figure that descended from the sky before their very eyes.
The entire Bible is good for teaching (2 Timothy 3:16, NIV). Although the angel’s words were spoken to the shepherds at the time of Christ’s birth, I believe whole-heartedly that the words also have meaning to us, too, and are somehow spoken to and useful for us in modern days.
Ladies, I want you to know in your heart that there is Good News occurring right now. Jesus birthday is not just 2,000 years ago. Jesus is not just Christmas day.
Jesus is the Good News, each and every day of our lives.
In the midst of all the darkness that roams the earth, we have the Joy of all joys and a Hope to hold onto.
We have Jesus.
“God rest ye merry, gentleman, let nothing you dismay” applies to us, meaning that despite whatever pit we may be stuck in, whatever shadows may be creeping upon us, or what persecution and prejudice we may face, God can bring us rest and make us merry.
“Remember Christ, our Savior, was born on Christmas day to save us from Satan’s power when we were gone astray.”
Has America gone astray?
Yes, in many ways.
Is Satan working to take over this nation? You bet.
But Christ was born to save us from all of the evil at work in the world.
I do not think it is any coincidence that all of this chaos has taken place just before Christmas. As the hands and feet of God in this nation, it is on this day that we celebrate the birth of our Savior! This season is one of incredible joy for the Christian, and I beseech each of you to allow the Lord to fill you with His joy. (Philippians 4:13).
May we carry tidings of comfort and joy into this broken land like the light of the world that we are intended to be.
You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16 NIV)
This world needs Jesus.
We need Jesus.
As much as I totally get the desire to hole-up in our little Christian bubbles and enjoy a quiet, blessed life, I also know that this type of life is not what God has for us.
He instructs us to go out into every corner of the world and share Him (Matthew 28:16-20). He urges us to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ.
The best way for us to do so is to let His joy, His peace, and His love overflow from our hearts.
This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength. (Nehemiah 8:10 NIV)
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7 NIV)
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” (John 13:35 NIV)
“The most important one” answered Jesus, “is this: Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God will all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this, you shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31 NIV)
“Father God, I thank You for Jesus.
I thank You for peace. I thank You for joy. I thank You for your promises that assure us You will be with us in dark and trying times. Lord, I ask that You would remember Your promise to be with those who are hurting and brokenhearted, even if they do not know You yet. Fill us this season, Lord, with Your love and Your peace; let us not forget all of the wonderful things You have done and how faithful You have been to us.
And God, I pray for strength and humility when offering Your Son to this broken world. May each of us be used as Your healing hands, Your comforting mouth piece, and Your feet to reach those You are calling back to Yourself.
God, break us out of our Christian-bubbles and out of our comfort zones and out of our political parties and let those around us just see You as we offer up our lives to You as a living sacrifice.
In Jesus’ name, amen.”
“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!”
God rest ye, merry gentlemen.
Let nothing you dismay.
Let us offer up hymns of thanksgiving for the comfort and joy His love provides us.
Original publication: http://www.wholemagazine.org/posts/god-rest-ye-merry-gentleman