Dissecting “God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen” Quiz

When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests in their vestments and with trumpets, and the Levites (the sons of Asaph) with cymbals, took their places to praise the Lord, as prescribed by David king of Israel. With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the Lord:
“He is good;
    his love toward Israel endures forever.”
And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid.

  • Ezra 3:10-11

And the Levites—Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah and Pethahiah—said: “Stand up and praise the Lord your God, who is from everlasting to everlasting.” “Blessed be your glorious name, and may it be exalted above all blessing and praise.

  • Nehemiah 9:5

I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness;
    I will sing the praises of the name of the Lord Most High.

  • Psalm 7:17

I will sing the Lord’s praise,
    for he has been good to me.

  • Psalm 13:6

I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart;
    before the “gods” I will sing your praise.

  • Psalm 138:1

God rest ye merry gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay
For Jesus Christ our Saviour
Was born on Christmas Day
To save us all from Satan’s pow’r
When we were gone astray
O tidings of comfort and joy
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

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

The shepherds at those tidings
Rejoiced much in mind,
And left their flocks a-feeding
In tempest, storm and wind,
And went to Bethlehem straightway
The Son of God to find.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

But when to Bethlehem they came,
Whereat this infant lay,
They found Him in a manger,
Where oxen feed on hay;
His Mother Mary kneeling down,
Unto the Lord did pray.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

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 efface.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy.”

  • Traditional English Carol from either the 15th or 18th Century, God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen

Caroling was such an important part of Christmas.  I was probably caroling before I could read.  I remember walking from house to house with other members of the youth group and even before I was old enough for youth group.  No one invited us in for cocoa and cookies.  All of that was waiting back at the church.

Last year, I dissected three carols during the Advent Season for quizzes.  I plan to do so again, but maybe in a different vein, and the carols that I choose will be special ones, at least for me.

The third of these carols for 2022 is God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen.  Why?  I have always liked the carol.  We will discuss what “merry” means in a bit, but whenever this carol came up during the advent season, the men in the church seemed to boost up the volume.  That does not mean that the song relates only to the male gender, but we are talking about the message given to the shepherds.  Calling these shepherds “gentlemen” might be a stretch, but the ancient, at least three centuries ago, composer may have simply been polite.

All the Scriptures above speak of praising God.  That might refer to a line in the carol.

But before we go further, there is a different verse in my old hymnbook.  Verse 3 is as follows, in the hymnbook, followed only by the last verse above.

“ ‘Fear not, then,’ said the angel,
‘Let nothing you affright,
This day is born a Saviour
Of a pure Virgin bright,
To free all those who trust in Him
From Satan’s power and might.’
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy “

  • Third stanza of the carol in The Hymnbook, published by three Presbyterian denominations (1955)

With the carol being hundreds of years old, rewrites are inevitable, or so it seems.  Thus, the questions will be restricted to the first, second, and final stanzas.

In the Question section I have statements.  Some are Bible verses, with the reference given.  Some just make a statement about what the Scriptures say or in one case does not say.  As we have been doing, place the line of the carol that closely matches.  Two lines are given in each case, since in the sheet music, two lines form one line of the sheet music.

The Questions:

?Scripture or statements that are close to lines in the carolThe Lines in the Carol
1Luke 2:8-9 speaks of shepherds tending their flocks when the angel arrived. 
2In John 13, Jesus gives His disciples, whom He called brothers, a new command, to love one another. 
3Joseph went up from Nazareth to register for a census and while there, Mary gave birth.  No mention of what season of the year, much less one specific day (Luke 2:1-6). 
4Luke 2:8-9 speaks of an angel of the Lord appeared, and the witnesses of this were afraid. 
5So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David (Luke 2:4). 
6Praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord, my soul. (Psalm 146:1)
 
7This one is not exact, but what did the angels say, that is the original angel and a company of the heavenly host?  “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”  I guess that might translate into something comforting or joyful or both. 
8But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8) 

The term “merry” must meet the concept of Robin Hood’s “merry men” since the legend and the carol could have come from the same era.  Most groups of bandits and such in those days were referred to as “merry.”  Thus, drunk, carefree, and simply deliriously happy does not exactly fit the definition.  Thus, does eat, drink, and be “merry” have a change in meaning when considering this?

Robin Hood’s men were dependable, in a roguish fashion.  At least, they did their nefarious jobs with expert skill.  If you were not dependable, the band of robbers would be defunct, you would be dead, whatever bad outcome you could think of.

Thus, “merry” might have referred to the celebration afterwards, responsibly done, especially if the sheriff’s men are still out looking for you.

As the meaning of “merry” has changed, so has the title of this carol.  The comma keeps getting moved from before the word merry to after the word merry.  Before merry means that we should all be merry in that our savior has been born.  After merry beckons a phrase of greeting, greeting someone with “(God) rest you (ye) merry” was basically giving a blessing on the person that you greeted.  But which came first?  The greeting or the carol?

Today, merry simply means joyful, but when we look at someone being responsible, dependable, highly skilled, and then in a positive good humor, what does that do to the expression, “Merry Christmas.”  Saying Happy Christmas loses nine tenths of the meaning.  In fact it might lead to an alliteration we commonly hear, Happy Holidays, and thus Jesus Christ is ignored and forgotten again.  But if we are true to the Advent season, on guard, prepared for Christ’s return, we could say “Merry Christmas” and indeed mean being responsible, dependable, not over indulged in the alcohol, ready with our weapon of choice by our side to face all foes.  Why?  Because Jesus Christ is coming soon.”

And as for a hint on the quiz, the answers are in alphabetical order.  I am pretty sure you have them right, but the hint might boost your confidence.

   …

   …

   …

The Answers:

?Scripture or statements that are close to lines in the carolThe Lines in the Carol
1Luke 2:8-9 speaks of shepherds tending their flocks when the angel arrived.And unto certain shepherds
Brought tidings of the same
2In John 13, Jesus gives His disciples, whom He called brothers, a new command, to love one another.And with true love and brotherhood
Each other now embrace;
3Joseph went up from Nazareth to register for a census and while there, Mary gave birth.  No mention of what season of the year, much less one specific day (Luke 2:1-6).For Jesus Christ our Saviour
Was born on Christmas Day
4Luke 2:8-9 speaks of an angel of the Lord appeared, and the witnesses of this were afraid.From God our Heavenly Father
A blessed Angel came;
5So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David (Luke 2:4).How that in Bethlehem was born
The Son of God by Name.
6Praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord, my soul. (Psalm 146:1)
Now to the Lord sing praises,
All you within this place,
7This one is not exact, but what did the angels say, that is the original angel and a company of the heavenly host?  “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”  I guess that might translate into something comforting or joyful or both.O tidings of comfort and joy
Comfort and joy
8But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)To save us all from Satan’s pow’r
When we were gone astray

And here is Pentatonix singing God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen.

And of all the carols, why does God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen have so many ways of presenting the same tune?  How about a different treatment from Low Bass Singer.  And no, I can get nowhere near that low.

And before we get to the final “interesting” version, let’s tone it down to the carol singing as we my sing it, but maybe not as mellow as Nat King Cole.

Maybe you are tired of the Chip Davis version, but I cannot get enough of it.  I hope you enjoy the Mannheim Steamroller version.

And who was this man on horseback?  I am sure he was a messenger, sent by the King of kings, to spread the word of great tidings of comfort and joy.  Merry Christmas, everyone.

And after I finished this post, David Wesley’s latest virtual choir came out. A bonus rendition of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.

If you like these Saturday morning Bible quizzes, but you think you missed a few, you can use this LINK. I have set up a page off the home page for links to these Saturday morning posts. I will continue to modify the page as I add more.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: