Words often change over years and centuries.  Words we use today often had different meaning when they were originally used in songs of old.    

    One of my favourite Christmas carols is “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen”.  Notice how it is properly written, with a comma after ‘merry’.  By looking into the punctuation and meaning of the words, we can see what this carol means.  One old English meaning of rest is to keep or continue to remain.  A merry man was a companion in arms or a knight with the idea of someone who is brave and mighty.  Knowing this, the title is a greeting to the gentlemen with the admonition that God keep them brave and mighty.  The rest of the song can now take on a deeper meaning knowing what the title and first lines mean.

    It also gives a deeper meaning for the greeting of ‘Merry Christmas”.  Depending on the meaning of merry you choose to use, it could be wishing someone a happy Christmas or you could be wanting them to have a mighty or strong Christmas.  Personally I like the latter.  What could be nicer than a strong and mighty Christmas?

Published by Ray Richards