Part of the pleasure of the holiday season is hearing and singing familiar songs that we only enjoy during the season. I often sing Christmas Carols during our hot summers to stay mentally cool but others do not share this talent as I do. When we sing these songs during the festive holiday season, we feel a kinship with them because they remind us of past holiday seasons that we want to remember. Many songs are religious in nature but some are just a lot of fun to sing. Some are a blend of religious meaning and joyful feeling. One song that is a mixture is "God rest ye merry Gentlemen". This song is rather exclusivistic in that it invites only one gender to have some rest but perhaps the gentlemen who are needing rest are the ones who are out shopping for their families so that they can enjoy Christmas Day when it comes so perhaps we can grant them some rest as they complete their tasks. If ladies are involved in this task as we know they are, then maybe we can sing, "God rest ye merry persons" although it does not flow as well musically.
The song in question has its origin in the British Isles in the 1600s or so. According to Wikipedia, it was written as a "new song" to compete with some of the old standards that had been around for so long that people had grown very tired of them. It is mentioned in Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol and its singing drives Ebenezer Scrooge a bit batty causing him to say "Bah! Humbug" repeatedly. The song tells about the birth of the Christ child and how God's great gift benefited the world and its population of sinners. Each verse concludes with the refrain, "O Tidings of Comfort and Joy, Comfort and Joy..." allowing the singer to reassure all who would hear the song that the birth of Christ brings comfort and joy to the soul.
We modern sinners need to hear that refrain again and again because we live in a world needing a lot of comfort and joy. The daily newscasts are harbingers of bad news and we hear so much of it we often wonder if there is any good news to be had. The repeating of bad news often convinces us that the world in which we live is a bad place to live because of all the bad news. We need to be reminded that God is still in control and that the world continues to be a good place to live because God blessed it and called it good at its creation and nothing has changed to make it otherwise.
Words of comfort speak to us to soothe our souls in troubled times. When we feel abandoned, alone, afraid, we need a shoulder to lean upon and that feeling of comfort arises because someone cares. We comfort one another when life presents us with challenges that we may not be able to endure alone. Comfort brings joy as we consider we are not alone in the world.
Maybe that is the true meaing behind that carol. Christ our savior was born on Christmas Day, it says, and that proves God's love for us. We are not alone, God is with us---Emmanuel! Tidings of comfort and joy are ours because of that good news. Share the good news with others in our world in this holiday season and all through the year. God loves us all and gave proved that by becoming like us so God could understand what makes us the way we are. Thanks be to God.