For the next couple of Mondays, I’m going to dive into some of the…..strange lyrics and stories of Christmas carols. Today, I’m looking at the song, “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen”.
I have to start with the comma in the title. This has always intrigued me. The way it is written is God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen. But that doesn’t really make sense, does it? Wouldn’t the comma be before Merry, not after it? Well, I found a NY Times article that deals with this. In the article, it explains that the phrase “God Rest Ye Merry” is explained as “God keep you merry”. OK, that makes sense. But in the over 3 centuries since the song was written, that comma has wandered.
OK, so we know what the first line is talking about. But what about this “tidings of comfort and joy” thing? Tidings just means news or information. So it’s news of comfort and joy.
The whole song is talking about keeping cheerful and happy because Jesus was born to save us. But why is the melody written in a minor key, if it’s so happy?? It is an interesting choice, isn’t it? Major keys typically sound cheerful or happy, while minor keys sound somber and sad. It’s a unique and interesting juxtaposition that I can’t really find an answer to. Normally, the music reflects the text…but this is a unique connection. What are your thoughts?
God rest ye merry gentlemenLet nothing you dismayRemember Christ our SaviorWas born on Christmas DayTo save us all from Satan’s pow’rWhen we were gone astrayOh tidings of comfort and joyComfort and joyOh tidings of comfort and joy