Why the comma in God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen? First published in Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern (1833), with the help of William B. Sandy, God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen is one of the oldest carols sung today, dating back over 500 years. The composer is not known but at least two sources from that time period heralded it as the nation’s favorite carol.
Did you know that God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen is the only song mentioned in Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol? Ebenezer Scrooge lashes out, “’…at the first sound of ‘God bless you merry, gentlemen, May nothing you dismay!’ Scrooge seized the ruler with such energy of action that the singer fled in terror…”
Why the comma in God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen?
When we look deeper into this ancient and beloved carol, we see that some of the words have changed meanings down through the centuries. The word rest meant to keep or make and merry possibly referred to being strong or mighty, similar to Robin Hood’s Merry Men or Robin Hood’s Mighty and Strong Men.
The insertion of the comma after merry could have been written, “God make you mighty, gentlemen.” No wonder they were singing this up and down the streets of London! They weren’t encouraging merry men to rest necessarily, they were encouraging those mighty men, who had discovered Christ had been born, to continue to stand strong, or maybe as a reminder that God would keep them safe and strong if they were in Christ Jesus.
God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen is a wonderful rallying cry for The Church today! Christmas is much more than tinsel and gifts, and as the Body of Christ, it is our duty to herald it from the rooftops that the Babe was born in a manger but it didn’t end there. He was born as a baby, to be sure, but He lived a sinless life and gave that life as a ransom to save us all from Satan’s power when we have gone astray!
O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy!
As you reflect on this song this Christmas season, or maybe include it in your caroling list, remember that in Bethlehem was born the Son of God by name and His name is Jesus. Then, thank God that He has made YOU Mighty through Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, not to just hoard His goodness to yourself but to spread the Good News wherever you go this Christmas and beyond.
Enjoy the lyrics and the video and let nothing you dismay; we have hope this blessed Christmas season that He is coming again!
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 bless’d Babe was born,
And laid within a manger upon this bless’d morn;
The which His mother Mary did nothing take in scorn.
From God our heavenly Father a bless’d 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 afright
This day is born a Savior of a pure Virgin bright,
To free all those who trust in Him from Satan’s power and might.’
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 bless’d 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 deface.
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.