As I was pulling out and dusting off my fairly impressive collection of Christmas music — ok, wait; that is total “impression management.” It’s actually, almost a bold face lie. Sorry. I mean, yes, my collection is impressive, but the truth is (confession time, friends) that I listen to Christmas music all year round. I know, I know… many of you wish the triumphant tunes were confined to December days only — perhaps some of you will even pause your loyal readership for a few weeks — but there’s something about singing “peace on Earth” and “goodwill toward men” that puts me in a good mood all year long.
Recently, though, as I was again humbly, vocally accompanying the recorded artist on the CD (fathom that idea), I stumbled upon an error in the way contemporary culture sings a song. In fact, the words are still the same, but a singular punctuation mark has been moved; it profoundly changes the meaning of the song. Yes, I uncovered the misplaced comma.
We sing “God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen.”
The song, however, was originally written as “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen.”
Notice the placement of the comma. That comma makes all the difference in the world. We have changed the meaning of the song.
When we sing…
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!
… sometimes I think we act as if everything around us is happy… like we are always happy. “God rest you, happy people.”
Well, sometimes life isn’t happy. In fact, a lot of days a lot of us have tough stuff to handle. Life isn’t always happy, and a solid faith doesn’t necessarily make us merry. While we may be able to tap into an inner joy and unparalleled peace — perhaps, something related to that peace on Earth — we’re still not always happy. Christmas time, especially, is often a painful struggle for many.
Yet when we examine the misplaced comma and return it to its rightful place — “God rest ye merry, gentlemen” — and then we acknowledge that the 15th century carol, written in a minor, melodiously dark-sounding key — we see that the writer was not simply sitting back, believing it was so easy to be happy and merry. The writer is encouraging each of us to rest in God’s merriment — in the joy available via the creator of the world — regardless of the darkness… regardless of that minor key.
I’ve heard it said that “if Satan can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy.” There’s a part of me that believes there’s a lot of truth in that. Look at us running around these days. We’re working and wrapping and buying and baking. We’re spending so much time preparing for Christmas that we’re almost avoiding the meaning.
Hence, the encouragement to rest.
No matter what.
Resting in the merry.