God Rest Ye Merry
Every year we greet each other with the word merry, meaning happy or pleasant; merry old England referred to an idyllic life that was prosperous and bountiful and Robin Hood’s merry men were companions in arms. The Bible uses the word merry to convey a sense of joyfulness. Proverbs 17:22 says that a merry or cheerful heart is like good medicine. The word rest is used in “God rest you merry, gentlemen,” in a sense meaning to keep or to continue as is “rest assured.” So, this carol is a prayer for God to keep joy in the hearts of “men”.
Things aren’t always what they appear to be. I have heard so many odd stories about Christmas, legends that have been debunked and with the changing of word meanings and difference in cultures, it is as hard for modern culture to understand some of the realities of the world long ago, as it would be for people to wrap their brains around some of the changes that have upended cultures over the last 2 millennia, were they to show up today. Yet we still sing songs from centuries ago – some make sense and some make more sense knowing the story behind the song.
Perhaps the modern version would be Don’t worry, be happy. God’s got this!