God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen — Carols of Advent Peace

Scripture Focus: John 12.14-15
14 Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, as it is written:
15 “Do not be afraid, Daughter Zion;
    see, your king is coming,
    seated on a donkey’s colt.”

Zechariah 9.9
9 Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!
    Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
    righteous and victorious,
lowly and riding on a donkey,
    on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Luke 2.10-12
10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Reflection: God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen — Carols of Advent Peace
By Jon Polk

“The owner of one scant young nose, gnawed and mumbled by the hungry cold as bones are gnawed by dogs, stooped down at Scrooge’s keyhole to regale him with a Christmas carol: but at the first sound of

‘God bless you, merry gentleman!
May nothing you dismay!’

Scrooge seized the ruler with such energy of action, that the singer fled in terror, leaving the keyhole to the fog and even more congenial frost.”

“God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” is among the oldest existing Christmas carols, dating back to the 16th century. It is so iconic that Charles Dickens used it in his classic tale from 1843, A Christmas Carol, as the carol sung by a young caroler attempting to bring joy to the hardened Ebenezer Scrooge.

Changes in language and word usage over time have led to an unfortunate misinterpretation of the opening line and confusion over punctuation. Even Dickens, in his quotation of the lyric, got it wrong.

Contrary to common perception, the song is not an instruction to relax, directed to a group of cheerful men.

In old English, the word rest means “to keep, remain.” The adjective merry had a broader meaning which included “prosperity” and “peace” in addition to “joy.” The comma should properly be placed between merry and gentlemen.

“God rest ye merry” could more accurately be phrased as, “May God grant you peace and joy.”

A great contrast is depicted in Dickens’ scene: the young caroler braving the blistering winter cold to spread tidings of comfort and joy and the elder Scrooge, safe and warm inside, yet with a cold, hard heart, devoid of peace and joy.

The antidote to Scrooge’s downcast spirit would have been found in a later verse, had he let the poor young singer continue.

“Fear not, then,” said the angel,
“Let nothing you affright;
This day is born a Savior
Of a pure virgin bright,
To free all those who trust in him
From Satan’s power and might.”

The comforting message from the angel to the shepherds was, “Don’t be afraid! I’ve got good news of peace and joy!” (Luke 2:10).

Scrooge was visited, not by angels, but by spirits, and his heart began to soften. When later questioned by the Ghost of Christmas Past, Scrooge remembered his error, “There was a boy singing a Christmas Carol at my door last night. I should like to have given him something: that’s all.”

Let us, like Scrooge, allow our hearts to soften as we set aside our fears this Christmas. Let us actively embrace God’s peace promised to us by the angel on that first Christmas morn.

God rest ye merry, gentle reader, and fear not, for the Prince of Peace has been born.

Listen: God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen by Jars of Clay
Read: Lyrics from Hymnary.org
Bonus Read: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens


From John: Just interjecting here to say that as a writer, I was thrilled and nerding out a bit that part of Jon’s analysis of this carol involved understanding the change in meaning that can be made by the placement of a comma. I’ve been so thankful for Jon’s careful and excellent work on these pieces. Readers, God rest ye merry!

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
May God be merciful to us and bless us, show us the light of his countenance and come to us.
Let your ways be known upon earth, your saving health among all nations. — Psalm 67.1-2

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Zechariah 9 (Listen – 3:01)
John 12 (Listen – 6:26)

Read more about End of Year Giving and Supporting our work
Many of you have already responded this past week with end-of-year donations and we are so thankful! No donation is too large or too small.

Read more about Transcendent Peace and Rest
We can experience God’s peace in every day and any moment. Hebrews tells us that “we who have believed enter that rest.”

Making Him Known :: A Guided Prayer

John 17.26
I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.

Reflection: Making Him Known :: A Guided Prayer
By John Tillman

Making Christ known is the essence of Epiphany. When Christ’s identity is made known to the nations, our identity is made known as strangers and aliens in the world.

Today we read and pray through Christ’s prayer from John 17. May all the words of his prayer for us be fulfilled in his name.

Prayer for Unity and Love

We thank you, Lord, for your Advent.
We thank you for coming to us.
We thank you for your gift of life and joy.

You granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life…Now this is eternal life: that they know you…and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. — John 17.2-3

To know you, Lord, is eternal life.
May we be one, as you prayed, so that the world may know you.

I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. — John 17.13

We need your joy in all circumstances.
For we are hated by the world because of your word.

I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. — John 17.13-14

May your prayer for us be fulfilled, Jesus.

I pray for those who will believe…that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you…I will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them. — John 17.20-26

Through your Word we know you.
Through knowing you…
You put your glory in us.
You send your love through us.
You work your power in us.
And we can be one with you, one with the Father, and one with each other.

Father for the sake of your Name and the salvation of the nations…
Glorify your Son, Jesus Christ, through us no matter what we may suffer…
Show the world your love through us, no matter what it may cost us…
And help us make you known, no matter how much the world will hate us.

May your prayer for us, be fulfilled, Lord Jesus.
We pray in your Name…

On the second day of Christmas, Christians across the world celebrate the life of Saint John, referred to in scripture as, “the beloved disciple.”

Prayer: A Reading
This disciple is the one who vouches for these things and had written them down, and we know that his testimony is true. There was much else that Jesus did; if it were written down in detail, I do not suppose the world itself would hold all the books that would be written. — John 21:24-25

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Zechariah 14 (Listen – 3:52)
John 17 (Listen – 3:48)

Additional Reading
Read More about Good and Pleasant Unity? A Prayer for Election Week
Even among God’s people, unity is described as “good” and “pleasant,” implying that it is not automatic or constant.

Read More about The Spirit of the Lord :: Epiphany
The Holy Spirit, paraklētos, who made Christ’s earthly body, now makes in our individual bodies Christ’s mind and spirit. But more powerfully, we are knit together as a community, The Church. into the physical body of Christ in the world.

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In a World of Trouble, Peace :: A Guided Prayer

John 16.33
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

Reflection: In a World of Trouble, Peace :: A Guided Prayer
By John Tillman

John’s gospel, throughout Advent has been revealing to us many gifts from Jesus. Gifts of hope, love, joy, and peace.

As Advent moves into the twelve days of Christmas, we participate in the revealing, the epiphany, the manifestation of Christ. Through the end of this year, we will read and pray through some of Christ’s most revealing teaching to his followers.

The synoptic gospels spend much time on what Jesus taught the crowds. John draws us close—making a seat for us at the last Seder. He places us in Christ’s inner circle for the longest passages in the gospels of Christ teaching and ministering to his closest followers.

We belong here. We, the disciples of the future were in Christ’s thoughts at this time. Christ was preparing his disciples for the immediate trouble of his betrayal, arrest, and death, but the peace he offered and the victory he declared is for us today, in our equally troubled times.

In a World of Trouble, Peace

Lord, our hearts and our times are troubled. Immediately after celebrating “Peace on Earth” we are still troubled by all that is happening around us.

The aftertaste of our culture’s saccharin, Christ-less Christmas, is unsatisfying and cannot soothe the schisms, the divisions, the brokenness of our relationships on every level.

Lord, we are scattered and broken.

“Strike the shepherd,
and the sheep will be scattered — Zechariah 13.7

A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered. — John 16.32

Confess ways we have allowed this world and it’s systems to scatter us, moving us away from community and Christ.

Lord, you sacrificed being with us physically in order to send the Holy Spirit to us. Help us to value him accordingly.

Ask the Holy Spirit to be with you. Listen. Sit with him. Walk with him.

You will weep and mourn while the world rejoices…but your grief will turn to joy…I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. — John 16.20 22

There is much in our world for us to mourn, Lord. May we not neglect weeping in prayer. But thank you, Lord, that we have joy that no one can take away in your presence.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. — John 16.28, 33

Rest in Christ’s promise. Walk with Christ’s presence. Carry Christ’s peace with you into a world that is rightly his.

Prayer: The Morning Psalm
In you, O Lord, have I taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your righteousness. — Psalm 31:1

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Zechariah 13.2-9 (Listen – 1:40)
John 16 (Listen – 4:14)

Additional Reading
Read More about The Peace of Christ :: Peace of Advent
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the Prince of Peace, and we are his heirs. Yet, how many Christ-Followers have come to fully understand the divine reality that peace is our inheritance?

Read More about Silent Night :: Advent’s Peace
Silence and stillness were not present that night for the reasons the affluent find them, but because God’s presence filled our barren world with radiant sufficiency.

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The Peace of Christ :: Peace of Advent

John 14.27
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Reflection: The Peace of Christ :: Peace of Advent
By Jada Swanson

On the night Jesus was born, peace entered this world. And in triumphant chorus, the angels proclaimed, “Peace on earth!” This tiny babe, wrapped in swaddling clothes, brought peace in ways the world cannot. Yet, if truth be told, many still wonder if peace will ever be fully known, especially in light of all that is going on across the world and in individuals’ lives.

Christmastime isn’t merry or bright for everyone. Amidst the merriment and festive celebrations, life continues. The realities of life remain. For some, this could mean job loss. For others, it may mean living with a chronic illness, acknowledging the empty chair at the dinner table, or accepting the casualties associated with broken relationships.

Even still, this is a time of worship and reflection of the greatest gift given to humankind. Finding the beauty in the broken. Grieving what never was and what never will be. Making peace with the chaos of the past, and anticipating the future and all that it holds. Purposing to intentionally be present in the here and now with loved ones. Focusing on the true meaning and reason for this season: Jesus’ birth. And clinging to His promised gifts: hope, love, joy, and peace.

As believers, our hope is rooted in a promise that God made many years ago when Isaiah, the prophet, wrote:

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the Prince of Peace, and we are his heirs. Yet, how many Christ-Followers have come to fully understand the divine reality that peace is our inheritance? This peace that he generously and graciously grants to us is not dependent upon our circumstances or our ability to know how or when future events will work out. In fact, Jesus assures us that in him alone can we find peace at all times and in every way.

Do you have peace in this season? Or are you finding it difficult to rest in the Lord and allowing God’s peace to comfort and sustain you? You are not alone. May we all find hope and assurance in Jesus’ words from John 14: 27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

Peace of Christ to you in this season and in the days ahead.

Prayer: Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord — Psalm 31:24

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Zechariah 11 (Listen – 2:40)
John 14 (Listen – 4:13)

Tomorrow’s Readings
Zechariah 12:1-13:1 (Listen – 2:30)
John 15 (Listen – 3:20)

Additional Reading
Read More about Under His Covering
The wise men gave three presents to the baby Jesus, but God also gave three presents to Mary. He gave her the Messiah, but he also granted her joy and peace. I’m so thankful she opened all three gifts.

Read More about Hurting through the Holidays :: Advent’s Hope
Physical and emotional pain can make the holiday season feel like a torrent of expectations to appear happy. The unspoken demand of “Christmas joy” weighs on those mourning the loss of a loved one, suffering a long-term illness, or carrying the pressures of daily anxiety or depression.

Support our Work
At The Park Forum, we produce over 100,000 words of free devotional content every year.
Thank you for reading and a huge thank you to those who fund our ministry.
End of Year giving and monthly giving each play a large part in keeping The Park Forum ad-free and helping us to be able to continue producing fresh content.
Support the spiritual development of thousands of readers by making a donation today or joining our monthly donors.

Joy Despite Everything :: Joy of Advent

John 11.27
I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.

Reflection: Joy Despite Everything :: Joy of Advent
By John Tillman

When we wait in Advent we know the date on the calendar when Christmas comes. We know the day we will blow out the candles the final time. We know the number of shopping days left. We know how long until we will take the decorations down.

But in our lives, many times we wait in faith without a date on the calendar. There are many times we wait in hospital rooms. Wait on a phone call. Wait to see if our miracle will arrive.

And many times we stand over a casket instead of sitting around a table. We make an unemployment claim instead of a promotion. We box up our things and move in with our parents when our miracle passes us by.

Advent grows darker as the year wanes. And Martha greets us at the darkest point of her life. When faith has failed. When her wick smolders. When the smell of death wafts, unwanted through her mind.

Martha shows us how to wait. Martha shows us how to have faith, and then when your faith is crushed into pieces, how to hold out your shattered faith to Jesus. Not demanding. Not asking. Just saying, “My faith is broken. But I’m not letting go. I still believe. In spite of everything.”

Martha, Martha.
She was concerned about many things.
But she came to be concerned only with one thing.

Martha who believed in faith that her brother would be healed.
Martha who sent word to Jesus.
Martha who received back the messenger and wondered why Jesus wasn’t with him.

Martha who waited…

Martha who tended her brother in his sickness.
Martha who occasionally gazed down the road.
Martha who watched him suffer…and die.
Martha who remained strong
Who made arrangements.
Who cared for her sister.
Who buried her brother—the brother she had believed Jesus would save.
Martha who watched her sister melt down in emotion.
Martha who saw Jesus coming.
Martha who was prepared to meet him.
Martha who lost her miracle and still blessed the tardy miracle-maker
Martha who stood before a man who failed her and proclaimed him to be the Son of God.
Martha who dared announce the Messiah in the suburbs of Jerusalem, in the shadow of Christ’s most powerful religious enemies.

Martha, Martha…
Teach us to wait in faith.
Teach us to believe.

From John:
This weekend, on Sunday, we light the last candle for Advent. Monday we have the pleasure of Jada Swanson writing our Christmas Eve post to close out our Advent series. It has been a great joy and challenge to write new Advent content this year. We have a lot to look forward to in the new year, and I hope your Advent has been restful, revelatory, and has awakened you to prepare for renewed connection with God in the New Year.

Prayer: Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Our soul waits for the Lord, He is our help and our shield.  — Psalm 33:20

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Zechariah 8 (Listen – 3:33)
John 11 (Listen – 6:37)

This Weekend’s Readings
Zechariah 9 (Listen – 3:01), John 12 (Listen – 6:26)
Zechariah 10 (Listen – 2:11), John 13 (Listen – 5:06)

Additional Reading
Read More about Light and Dark and Joy :: Joy of Advent
Darkness is not dark to our God. That means that God is not blind to our sins, but it also means that we do not walk in darkness alone. We walk with the God who knows the darkness as well as he knows the light.

Read More about The Fragrance of Faith :: Readers’ Choice
May we make extravagant, prophetic, and lasting gifts to Christ and to the spreading of this gospel, like a fragrance, throughout the world.

Support our Work
At The Park Forum, we produce over 100,000 words of free devotional content every year.
Thank you for reading and a huge thank you to those who fund our ministry.
End of Year giving and monthly giving each play a large part in keeping The Park Forum ad-free and helping us to be able to continue producing fresh content.
Support the spiritual development of thousands of readers by making a donation today or joining our monthly donors.

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