God rest ye merry, gentlemen, let nothing you dismay,
For Jesus Christ our Savior Was born upon this day,
To save us all from Satan’s power When we were gone astray.
O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy;
O tidings of comfort and joy!
In Bethlehem in Jewry This blessed babe was born,
And laid within a manager Upon this blessed morn:
The which His mother Mary Did nothing take in scorn. Refrain.
From God our heavenly Father A blessed angel came,
And unto certain shepherds Brought tidings of the same,
How that in Bethlehem was born The Son of God by name. Refrain.
The shepherds at those tidings Rejoiced much in mind,
And left their flocks afeeding In tempest, storm, and wind,
And went to Bethlehem straightway, The blessed babe to find. Refrain.
Now to the Lord sing praises, All you within this place,
And with true love and brotherhood Each other now embrace;
This holy tide of Christmas All other doth deface. Refrain.
This Carol was first published in 1827, but even then it was introduced as “an ancient carol, sung in the streets of London.” In fact, old London had municipal watchmen who were licensed to perform certain tasks, including the singing of Christmas carols. This was one of their songs.
In A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, Ebenezer Scrooge hears this song sung joyously in the street and tells the singer he’ll hit him with a ruler unless he stops singing. Of course that was not the intended response to this carol. The point is that joy reigns on Christmas Day because of God’s great gift of His Son, Jesus Christ. We can “rest merry” in the knowledge that Christ has paid our penalty for going astray and has set us free from the power of evil.