Perhaps God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen is my favorite Christmas carol because I aspire to maintain the countenance of a “merry gentleman,” myself. The song is cheerful and positive, as upbeat now as it must have been when sung with gusto in 18th Century England. It also has a dandy rhythm. I like that.
The Hymnbook, the old red one-my favorite, was published in 1955 jointly by the Presbyterian Church of the United States, Presbyterian Church of the United States of America, United Presbyterian Church of North America and Reformed Church in America. In the mid-fifties, these organizations represented factions of the Church with differences between them. Differences strong enough to keep them separate from each other, while still maintaining basic Presbyterian principles.
But they all agreed on at least one thing: Selection 166 in The Hymnbook used by each group would be God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman. It’s a hit, with all the things modern songwriters revere: catchy lyrics, strong melody, memorable hook line, and a universality that makes it appeal to the masses.
According to Webster’s Seventh Collegiate Dictionary, the word “tiding” means “a piece of good news – usually used in plural.” So today, I hope the tidings you hear will be the ones admonished to the proverbial merry gentlemen: Comfort and joy. And I hope we will all find comfort and joy throughout the coming year.
Merry Christmas, Y’all!
Text and photos copyright 2017 by Les Kerr.