Tuesday, December 21, 2004

What is this "MERRY" Christmas Business?

There’s much sword rattling about the physical display and verbalizing of the phrase “Merry Christmas” these days. It’s getting quite a bit of press.

But have you ever stopped to ask yourself, “What MERRY Christmas is all about?” Fact is, it’s bothered me over the years and since everyone else is talking about it, now might be the time to lay it out there.

Is it akin to “Robin Hood and his MERRY men?” What kind of a description for thieves, however noble, is that? Were they really jolly? Was it that they drank so much Nottingham apple beer that they were artificially happy? Did they laugh a lot? That sounds more like the men in tights movie than the brave warrior in the Kevin Costner film. Do you really want to wish others a “TIPSY Christmas?” I don’t think so.

Or is it, like, merry is like, really giddy and like, giggly and like, the stereotype of like, cheerleaders? You know, like, scattered? (My apologies to all those wonderful, intelligent cheerleaders out there.) Is that MERRY? Do you really want to wish others, like a “GIGGLY Christmas?” Like, I don’t think so.

Maybe it means hanging enough lights on your house to light the city of Pittsburgh? Is it to highlight frosty, mount genuine deer hide reindeer on your roof with a Santa that waves and chuckles? Is it the glitz and glitter and entertainment and (I’m not kidding - this is a real song) “I want a hippopotamus for Christmas?” Do you really want to wish others a “SUPERFICIAL Christmas?” I don’t think so.

If not, what is this MERRY Christmas business all about?

I was recently listening to the radio program, Family Life Today. Dennis Rainey had invited writer Ace Collins to help the audience understand some of the background of Christmas songs and traditions. He explained that the phrase “MERRY Christmas” goes back over 500 years to old England. As with so many words, the meaning has changed from its original use. Rather than happy, MERRY meant “MIGHTY,” powerful, grand, strong. Thus, the Christmas phrase was much more than a nice greeting; it was a desire for others to have a MIGHTY experience of Christ’s birth. Robin’s men may have been happy, but being merry meant they were strong, powerful men. Makes a whole lot more sense.

Mr. Collins goes on to explain in his book, “Stories Behind the Best Loved Songs of Christmas,”* that the song, “God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen” has a far deeper meaning than our first glance indicates. “Rest” did not mean to sit around in the recliner watching Steeler football. Rather, it meant “to make.” In addition, the comma was not originally between ye and merry, but between merry and gentlemen. Hmmmm, changes everything. With the restoration in hand, what we have is, “God Make You Mighty, Gentlemen.” Whoa! A far cry from, “I hope Santa makes you giddy!”

Think of the implications.

Not singing, “I Wish you a Merry Christmas”, but “I Wish you a MIGHTY Christmas.”

Pretty much destroys, “Have yourself a merry little Christmas.” MIGHTY and little just don’t seem to stick to each other.

At the end of that best loved Christmas poem, you know the one where your wife is wearing a kerchief and you’re wearing a cap in bed. (What is a kerchief and why in the world would I be wearing a hat in bed?) The part where Santa flies off into the sky, and yells to the sleeping town below now becomes “MIGHTY Christmas to all and to all a good night.”

As Ebenezer Scrooge is, well, scrooging through Christmas Eve, I wonder if he could have avoided the 3 ghosts if Bob Cratchet had wished him a MIGHTY Christmas. You know, he’s the kind of guy who may have gotten into that.

Guys may be more willing to shop and decorate if they had to rise to the challenge of a MIGHTY Christmas! Maybe it’s the subconscious idea of “merry/ giddy/ jolly” that deters us.

And, of all adjectives, the One who came that first Christmas is perhaps described best by MIGHTY. Mild as a child, but MIGHTY as the God-man. Humble, yes. Loving, yes. Kind, yes. Holy, yes. But encompassing all the characteristics of Jesus, HE IS MIGHTY!!!

So as we approach Christmas in the next few days, let’s start a conspiracy. Instead of the standard “Merry Christmas,” let’s wish others “MIGHTY CHRISTMAS.” That’s sure to turn a few heads! Probably even create some opportunities to talk about the good news of God coming to earth. Which the most important activity of Christmas for those who personally know Him.So, my family and friends, I wish you a MIGHTY, POWERFUL, BOLD celebration of the God of the universe coming to earth to rescue us!! GOD WITH US!



"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his MIGHTY POWER." Eph 6:10 (NIV)

"For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit OF POWER, OF LOVE and of self-discipline. 8 So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, 9 who has saved us and called us to a holy life--not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time," 2 Tim 1:6-9 (NIV)

*Ace Collins, “Stories Behind the Best Loved Songs of Christmas”, pages 53-57, Zondervan Publishing, 2001.

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