God rest you merry, Gentlemen

Welcome to our first Carol of Comfort & Joy! You may recognize exactly where this series got its name in today’s carol, sung by the Northridge Preparatory School’s choir: God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen.

This carol was printed for the first time in 1760 – that’s the version we know today – but it’s been written down since at least the 1650s. It has no author attached to it, but there’s somewhere else where you might frequently read about, or even hear, this carol. It’s a classic Christmas story, one that’s been adapted many times throughout history, from The Muppets to The Merry Beggars (our Entertainment Division). Do you know what story mentions this timeless carol?

It’s Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”! The street carolers often sing it in the stage, movie, and audio productions of Dickens’ classic tale. The joyful message of Christmas rings out so clearly in its words: “let nothing you dismay / For Jesus Christ, Our Saviour was born on Christmas Day.”

But, wait! You may be thinking, “this is an old carol”, and it is! “But don’t we use ‘ye’ when singing old carols? ‘God rest ye merry, gentlemen’?” While lots of people sing it that way, even in Old English, it’s actually “God rest you” and not “ye”.

And what does that phrase mean, anyway? Well, “God rest you merry” is another way of saying “God give you peace” or “God keep you in joy”. It’s kind of like the Sign of Peace or a blessing, but for greeting your friends, family, and neighbors on the street.

Be sure to let everyone you encounter know the “tidings of comfort and joy” – that is, the Good News that Christ has been born in Bethlehem, come to save us from sin. And now, enjoy the beautiful Northridge Preparatory School choir singing, “God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen”:

Rev. Francis J. Hoffman, "Fr. Rocky" is the Executive Director/CEO of Relevant Radio and a priest of Opus Dei.