Wishing You a _________ Christmas

I am a lover of the written word. I like to look at words. Where they came from, what they mean, how they’ve changed throughout the generations…you know etymology. J

So, I was pleasantly surprised to get some etymology in our Christmas program at church this year in a Christmas carol that hasn’t been a favorite of mine.

“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” was published in 1833 by William B. Sandys, although the author is unknown. Dickens had a caroler sing the song in his A Christmas Carol in 1843. This carol has been passed down through many a generation.

Apparently the title and first line of the song causes some confusion. I’d never really thought about it before, and I was very excited to learn something new. According to the information I was presented with (and that is linked here) the word “merry” in this context does not mean happy or cheerful, but instead means mighty as in strong.

I was hooked. I love this stuff! I’m already nudging my neighbor in the choir with, “I wish you a MIGHTY Christmas! I’m going to start telling everyone that!”

We then go on to find out that in this context “rest” means make. Wow! God MAKE you MIGHTY, gentlemen. We know this. He does!

This Christmas carol is becoming meaningful to me. I’m finding power in it’s words.

Chris and I discussed this over dinner later that night.

“That was really interesting! I had no idea. Did you?”

I’m always a nerd about this word stuff, the rest of my family…not so much! This has caused discussion into the meaning of the carols. How do these lyrics affect and impact us today?

So, I’ve pondered on this for almost two weeks. Tonight I decided to take some time to do a little research of my own and wish you all a MIGHTY Christmas.

Unfortunately, I can find no proof that the word merry has ever meant mighty in any way. I’m a little disappointed because I was so excited by it.

However, since I am currently using Dickens’ A Christmas Carol in my classroom, I was intrigued to find out that one reason “Merry Christmas” is so popular is because of that book.

I had never really thought about it, but do you know why we say “Merry Christmas” instead of Happy Christmas? Think about it. Happy New Year. Happy Valentine’s Day. Happy St. Patrick’s Day. Happy Easter. Happy Mother’s Day. Happy Father’s Day. Happy Fourth of July. Happy Memorial Day. Happy Labor Day. Happy Birthday. Happy Halloween. Happy Hanukah. Happy Thanksgiving. Happy Kwanza. But not Happy Christmas…at least not in the US. Apparently some English speaking countries won’t say Merry Christmas because merry means ‘tipsy’.

Merry Christmas originally meant wishing someone a blessed or peaceful mass of Christ.

So, my blog for tonight is totally derailed! I can say I learned something new. I have also found a new perspective on a song that in the past I just sang. Now I have found a passion for the lyrics. There is a message, and ministry, in the presentation when the messenger is plugged in to the meaning. We vocal worshipers need to make sure we understand the words of the songs we are singing, and that we aren’t just paying lip service in our music ministry.

In response to my word study, I think I’ll just go around wishing people an Authentic Time of Celebration in Remembrance of the Birth of Jesus Christ. I think it has quite a ring to it, don’t you?

Regardless of how you say it, what the words mean today or yesterday, I hope you take time to celebrate the birth of our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ this Christmas Season.

Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I

bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” Luke 2:8-12

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