Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
- Luke 2:13-14
“When at this season of the year we wish our friends a ‘Merry Christmas,’ it is essential to realize that true merriment of heart is contingent upon the recognition of the truth that Christ was born in Bethlehem for our salvation. The word ‘merry’ is from an old Anglo-Saxon word which meant ‘famous,’ ‘illustrious,’ ‘great,’ or ‘mighty.’ Originally, to be merry did not imply to be merrily mirthful, but strong and gallant. It was in this sense that gallant soldiers were called ‘merry men.’ Favorable weather was called ‘merry weather.’ Brisk winds were called a ‘merry gale.’ Spenser speaks of London as ‘merry London.’ The word ‘merry’ carries with it the double thought of ‘might’ and ‘mirth,’ and is used both ways in Scripture. One of the early Christmas carols was ‘God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen.’ The Christian is to engage in spiritual merriment as he thinks upon the fact that through the redemption, he becomes a child of God’s family. The Bible teaches that the angels made merry at Christ’s birth.”
- Billy Graham, Day by Day with Billy Graham (December 25)
The photo is a stock photo, not one of any grandchild, but the little guy does look “merry.”
When I think of “merry men,” I think of the same hymn that Billy Graham mentioned, one of my favorites, but I also think of Robin Hood and his Merry Men. And is it not odd that in the old television shows and movie serials, the merry men wore costumes quite like elf costumes? I wonder if that is a happy coincidence or it was meant to be similar, maybe the legends emerging about the same time…
“God rest you merry, gentlemen,
Let nothing you dismay,
For Jesus Christ our Saviour
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.”
- 18th Century English Carol
And the words, and number of verses, have changed many times over the years.
Thinking of being a merry man, I can remember my days in a few different organizations, working hard to accomplish a major task. It took teamwork, but we never seemed to enjoy the work under the pressure of getting the task or project complete. Once complete, we could be “merry.” It is odd how Billy Graham’s definition would have shown we were more along the lines of “merry men” during the conduct of the project, just without the merriment.
Yet, when you are managing a big construction project, as I have at times, you find joy in the little things. You carefully plan the project, breaking the project down into tasks, discovering the critical path and managing the project to accomplish the end goal on time. Thus, any small task that is complete is one step closer to the end. I always found joy in reporting completed tasks.
In our walk with God, it is not always an even, smooth path. As we stumble our way along, sometimes we can find Joy in those tiny, completed tasks along the way, those moments where we know that God has been a big part in our accomplishment and our growth.
And as the song goes, God saves us some Satan’s power.
We should always have Joy in such times, and praise God, for without Him we would get nowhere.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.