Saturday, December 02, 2006

God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen

For the last couple of years, Amanda and I have gone to see her Grandpa (and my father-in-law) usher in Santa Claus with his choral group. They sing, and Santa rides in in his horse drawn carriage and lights the tree at this large open-air shopping center on the Friday after Thanksgiving. This last year, while we were singing carols along with them, fake snow in the form of bubbles (like those that come out of the liquid dish detergent bottle when you puff it), was blowing around, and since it wasn't frigidly cold as it had been once before, it was quite enjoyable (not to mention that Starbucks was giving out free good-sized samples of gingerbread lattes). The woman who was announcing for the group gave a little background on many of the carols, which inspired me to dig up a little history on some of these songs that we know and love. I'll be sharing some of my favorite songs, including a CD that features that carol, perhaps in tandem with a little Snapshot holiday family fun.

"God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen" dates back to 1823 and is featured in Dickens' A Christmas Carol, signifying its great popularity of the time. Did you think that I might have misplaced the comma up there? That has been a point of contention, with it commonly appearing after Ye these days. However, then it is a well-wish to merry gentlemen as opposed to a wish of good cheer to the gentlemen, which is in keeping with its somber tone.

Singing this hymn along with the choral group that night, the lyrics really struck me. I never thought much of this song, to tell you the truth. But from this year on, it will be one of my favorites. This song, which has been and will be sung around many a family piano, at Christmas parties and by groups going from door to door, clearly gives the gospel message. I could honestly understand someone singing this song and coming to faith in the Reason for the Season Himself, Jesus. So, in my mind, not many songs are more Christmasy than this one. Because it's so old and so popular, there are many variations. I got this one from this site which gives complete lyrics as well as a little history on many carols.

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

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

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.

"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."

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.

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.

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.
or Alternate Final Chorus:

That God send you a happy new year,
Happy new year,
And God send you a happy new year.
Mercy Me's The Christmas Sessions has an excellent version of this carol that is combined with Carol of the Bells (which is another favorite tune--I specifically remember singing it in 7th grade choir and thinking that we were really awesome). I recently bought this CD when Blest pointed out that Family Christian stores was selling it for $5. Alas, the price has gone back up, and amazon now has the lowest price. I like this CD a lot.

In case you would like to know the official dance to the tune, check out this site. Yes, there's an official dance. It's all very Victorian. Think Jane Austen.

I am also indebted to this source which has information about many Christmas carols.


lady laura said...

The choral group sounds fun! And that is one of my favorite carols, though I didn't know about all the verses. Great song!

Anonymous said...

FREE STARBUCKS!! (oh sorry I know that was not the reason for this post, but my heart rate skipped a beat there, hehehe).

What a neat idea about sharing favorite songs and their history.

Anonymous said...

Love this song, and LOVE Mercy Me's version, too. And I don't think I've ever heard or read all the verses - usually just the first couple. So I enjoyed reading the lyrics.