By Jane Fryar
“I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people” (Luke 2:10 KJV).
This Scripture verse has become the basis for dozens of Christmas carols. One in particular comes to us from 19th Century England:
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!
Because the English in the carol is old-fashioned, we may think the writer is talking to “merry gentlemen” - gentlewomen, gentle children, gentle people - people who already have caught the spirit of the season and are already celebrating: “God rest you, merry gentlemen!” (In fact, maybe they have celebrated enough and are ready to take a rest!)
But in reality, the words pronounce a blessing: God rest you merry! The first line of stanza one repeats the blessing of the chorus: Comfort and joy! Rest and merriment! Both the chorus and the opening line pray these twin blessings on those listening to the carol.
The great busyness of Christmas in the 21st century can make blessings of comfort and joy seem oh, so far away and fanciful. Our busyness can keep our hearts from receiving - or even remembering - that our Lord wants us to receive these blessings from his kind and generous heart.
Too many of us endure “the holidays” as a six-week-long marathon with way too much to do, way too much to eat, and way too many obligatory social events. All this is bad enough, but when we know it will all climax around January 15 when way too many bills come due . . . well, everything combined can make us want to collapse into a tired heap!
We forget that “the holidays” are (or at least could be) “holy days,” days set aside for the express purpose of basking in the comfort and joy, the “glad tidings of great joy,” baby Jesus brought to earth.
In all the bustle and busyness, the Christmas angels call us to look back, back to our Savior’s manger bed. In looking, we remember, “Christ our Savior was born on Christmas day to save us all from Satan’s power when we were gone astray.”
There’s the comfort! There’s the joy! No matter how lost we feel, no matter how far we have strayed from that manger and from faith in the Savior who once lay there, we can come home. Our Father’s arms are open wide in welcome because his Son, Jesus, was born on Christmas Day for us, was crucified and buried on Good Friday for us, and was raised to life on Easter Sunday for us, never to die again.
The darkness will not win. The evil will not win. Dismay may overtake us, but it cannot hold us captive. We have a Savior! And in his victory over sin and Satan, hell and death, we find eternal comfort and receive unending joy.
May comfort and joy be yours - this holy season and always!
Editor’s note: Looking for more Christmas devotions? Check out CTA’s Resource & Idea Center for additional Christmas Ministry Messages.
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