God Rest Ye Merry

God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen


God rest ye merry, gentlemen

As I was researching this song, I found a website that I have copied and pasted above, written in green. So, my question for you is this: What’s wrong with this picture? 🤔

It’s the commas. Which way is correct? Does the comma go after “Ye,” or after “merry”? And I know some of you are thinking, What difference does it make? It makes a huge difference! 🤓  “God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen” can only be interpreted as God give you rest, merry gentlemen or For all of you who are merry, may God give you rest. But what about those who are not merry? What about those guys? Does God give rest only to those who are merry?

But with “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen,” the interpretation is May God grant you peace and happiness, gentlemen. With that latter (and correct) punctuation, we must infer that the gentlemen needed encouragement. How do we know that? Because of the second line: “Let nothing you dismay,” which would be interpreted as Don’t be discouraged. If the gentlemen were already merry, they would need no encouragement!

This is my favorite Christmas carol ever. For three reasons. 1) As a retired English teacher, I love showing people that punctuation makes a difference!  2) It was made popular by Charles Dickens (the greatest author ever) when he made reference to it in A Christmas Carol in 1843.  And 3) As someone who is not always merry, I am encouraged by the message of the song.

And what is the message? Line 3: “Remember, Christ, our Savior was born on Christmas day to save us all from Satan’s power when we were gone astray.” The fact is, sometimes we are under “Satan’s power,” and sometimes we still go “astray.” So, no matter how we find ourselves this Christmas season, we need to remember to “let nothing you dismay.”

Which reminds me of what David told his son Solomon as he was instructing him on how to build the temple, an enormous responsibility and formidable task. He said, “Be strong and courageous and do it. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed, for the Lord God, even my God is with you. He will not leave you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the house of the Lord is finished.”1

To “be dismayed” covers a lot of emotions. It can mean to be upset or worried, irritated or annoyed, perplexed or distressed. And let’s face it: the Christmas season can cause any one of those emotions to surface. 🤪 So, our scripture and our song encourage us to “not be afraid” and “let nothing you dismay.” The good news is even though we might have “gone astray,” we can always return to the Lord. This actually is a great time for us to “return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on you, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.”2  We need never fear that God will be angry or even disappointed in us when we return to him. He “waits to be gracious to you”3 —no matter what we have done or not done, no matter if we have “gone astray.”

The writer of our song (and no one knows who it is) repeats a wonderful line as a response to the news that Christ saves us when we have “gone astray”: “Oh, tidings of comfort and joy! Comfort and joy!”  And that’s why we are to “let nothing you dismay!”

So, “God rest ye merry, (ladies and) gentlemen.” 😀 May God grant you peace and happiness! The thought makes me smile . . . as does teaching a lesson on punctuation! 😉

11 Chronicles 28:20    2Isaiah 55:7    3Isaiah 30:18



1 Comments on “God Rest Ye Merry”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *