The Theology of Christmas Carols... II

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
O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy;O tidings of
comfort and joy.
In Bethlehem, in Israel, this blessèd Babe was born,And laid
within a manger upon this blessèd morn;The which His mother Mary did nothing
take in scorn.
From God our heavenly Father a blessèd angel
came;And unto certain shepherds brought tidings of the same;How that in
Bethlehem was born the Son of God by name.
“Fear not, then,” said
the angel, “Let nothing you afrightThis day is born a Savior of a pure Virgin
bright,To free all those who trust in Him from Satan’s power and
The shepherds at those tidings rejoiced much in mind,And
left their flocks a-feeding in tempest, storm and wind,And went to Bethl’em
straightaway this blessèd Babe to find.
But when to Bethlehem they
came where our dear Savior lay,They found Him in a manger where oxen feed on
hay;His mother Mary kneeling unto the Lord did pray.
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 others doth
God bless the ruler of this house, and send him long to
reign,And many a merry Christmas may live to see again;Among your friends and
kindred that live both far and near—
That God send you a happy new year,
happy new year,And God send you a happy new year.

Something a lot of people miss about this song is the grammar. We often sing it “God rest ye merry gentlemen” as if we’re wishing rest upon gentlemen who are already merry. If you look a little more carefully you see there is a comma in there. “God rest ye merry…, Gentlemen.” What we’re actually saying is “be merry” or “God give you rest and make you merry…, gentlemen because Jesus was born to bring us out of Satan’s power.”

A common trend I think you’ll notice in these Christmas carols is the theme of hope. There’s so much hope in this song.

“Remember Christ the savior was Born… to save us…”

There’s so much hope in the Christmas story; the story being told in this song. The reason for this trend of hope comes from a proper understanding of who Jesus was and what He did. Jesus was the long expected Messiah, who was to bring Israel out of its oppression and bring an end to the suffering of God’s people. The very first Christmas Carol was sung before Jesus was ever born… by His mother. It’s called the Magnificat. These are just a few lines from it:

“The mighty one has done great things…

His mercy is upon generation after generation…

He has brought down rulers from their thrones…

He has exalted those who were humble…

He has filled the hungry with good things…

He has given help to Israel…”

This song is filled with hope, real hope. Her hope is real because she understands who Jesus is, or at least what He wants to do. She’s living among the poorest of the pour and she has the hope to sing.

We can get so scurried and rushed in the Christmas season. Instead of being filled with hope we’re over run with stress. Maybe that line “God rest ye…” has something for us. If we slow down and remember what Christmas really means we’re filled with hope. If we remember that Christmas is good news we can have real hope which is worth celebrating. We celebrate the coming of a savior.


Now this year God rest you merry because Jesus coming brings us hope; hope in the good news… the tidings of comfort and joy for the oppressed and depressed.