Sunday, December 22, 2013

What is Christmas?

A homemade gift - made from a page from Around the World in Eighty Days.
What is Christmas?  

There was a time when Christmas burdened me with anxiety.  It seemed excessive and overwhelming and joyless; hence, it brought out the real Scrooge in me.  

But one year, during a homeschool Medieval Christmas Faire, I directed "The Three Shepherds” play - a Medieval-period play about the angels that appeared to shepherds to announce (in Latin, of course) the arrival of the expected Savior; the shepherds went in haste to see the Christ Child, and when they saw Him, they rejoiced; then they proclaimed the Good News to everyone they met.  I thought about that first "Christmas" night from the perspective of the joyful Shepherds, and suddenly it all made sense.

I am like those shepherds who expected the Messiah to come.  When He did arrive, and it was announced to them, they ran to find Him; and when they did find Him, they told Mary, His mother, about the Announcement and Heavenly Host who appeared to them.  They told everyone else they met that the Savior had finally come.  They were joyful, and I should be, too. (Luke 2:8-20)

Christmas is about Jesus.  He will come again (Hebrews 9:28) to collect those who belong to Him; but before He does, there is still time to tell others about Him.  While we cannot know for sure of the exact day of His birth, the point is: Christ was born for us.  He came to save us from our sins and to free us from death - if we would repent and trust in Him.   And that is the reason to rejoice.

 That is Christmas.

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

Following is commentary on my favorite Christmas hymn, which is also used in Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol

You have heard it said, "Things aren't always what they appear to be." Well, when we sing the Christmas carol, God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen, this saying is certainly true. With the changing of word meanings and difference in cultures, it is hard for Americans today to understand what the English peasants were singing about 500 years ago-unless you know the story behind the song.

The 15th century church sang only dark, somber songs usually written in Latin. When Christmas rolled around each year, songs of joy and happiness were not allowed in the church. To overcome this problem, the people took the singing of Christmas songs to the streets of jolly old London town. Soon, the waites (town pipers), the night watchmen of that time, would be singing God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen as they walked the streets of London.

Even Charles Dickens would include the song in his classic A Christmas Carol. This song was popular with the people because of a very strong message-one we desperately need today. Each Christmas, we greet each other with the word, merry, meaning happy. Back in the Middle Ages, the word "merry" meant great and mighty. For example, Robin Hood's merry men might be better understood as mighty men. Then, there's the word "rest." The meaning back then was keep or make. These original meanings would be clearer today with the addition of a modern comma. Thus, the true meaning of the song is "God make you mighty, gentlemen," which is a message for back then and a message for today.

So many, at Christmas time, will never hear or see the true reason for this holiday which is Christ's birth. The activities, the distractions, the lack of time and money, will rob most of this important message. They will be deceived into thinking it's just another Merry Christmas, and the New Year will bring more heartache and pain. 

We, as mighty men and women, can make a difference this Christmas by living our faith before them. Amid the holly and the tinsel, we can tell them that Christ was born to die and that, in Him, we might live forever. God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen is more than just a Christmas carol. It's our rallying song to show the world that, at Christmas time, things aren't always what they appear to be.


Here are the lyrics to the hymn, "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen," which retell the Christmas story and proclaim the gospel:

1. God rest ye merry, gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay
Remember, Christ, our Saviour
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

2. In Bethlehem, in Israel,
This blessed Babe was born
And laid within a manger
Upon this blessed morn
To which His Mother Mary
Did nothing take in scorn

3. From God our Heavenly Father
A blessed Angel came;
And unto certain Shepherds

Brought tidings of the same:

How that in Bethlehem was born

The Son of God by Name.


4. "Fear not then," said the Angel,
"Let nothing you affright,
This day is born a Saviour
Of a pure Virgin bright,
To free all those who trust in Him
From Satan's power and might."
5. The shepherds at those tidings
Rejoiced much in mind,
And left their flocks a-feeding
In tempest, storm and wind:
And went to Bethlehem straightway
The Son of God to find.
6. And when they came to Bethlehem
Where our dear Saviour lay,
They found Him in a manger,
Where oxen feed on hay;
His Mother Mary kneeling down,
Unto the Lord did pray.
7. 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 other doth deface.


Cleo said...

A timely reminder, Ruth! And thanks for including one of my favourite carols!

Blessings to you and your family during this Christmas season and all the year through!!!

Ruth said...

Merry Christmas! to you and your family, too. Happy New Year!

Looking forward to another year reading through the classics and learning about the past.