“Merry Gentlemen” or “Merry, Gentlemen?”

The hymn God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen is a Christmas favorite of mine. I love the majesty and the pace of it. It’s an easy tune to remember and full of biblical truth. The pace of the song prevents us from recognizing the need for a comma after “merry.” This can cause a little confusion as to the song’s meaning. There is indeed a comma between “merry” and “gentlemen.” And the term “merry” does, in fact, mean “merry or joyful,” rather than “mighty” as some have said.

The first few lines of the song are there to remind men that they are to rest with merriment in God’s finished work through Christ. At the same time, it is a prayer to God to “keep” His people merry in Christ. We are to rest, and are kept joyful by God! What a glorious grace for those who labor and are heavy-laden.

Sean Ferigan

The remainder of the song tells the story of redemption, concluding with an exhortation as to how we ought to live in light of Christ’s work on our behalf. I know some people take exception with the line “To free all those who trust in Him From Satan’s power and might,” but in light of verses such as Ephesians 2:2 and 1 John 3:8 I don’t see any problem with that being part of the focus of the incarnation as we sing praises to God.

I added my own verse to the end of the song as an additional encouragement for Christians to proclaim this good news that began that first Christmas Day. What do you think?

The door to God’s Heavenly place
By this pure son was breached.
Yet in spite of these glad tidings
There still remains unreached
With urgency and fervency,
the gospel must be preached.

O, tidings of comfort and joy
Comfort and joy
O, tidings of comfort and joy

This post was adapted from this post from 2011.

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