NICK EICHER, HOST: Next up on The World and Everything in It: Word Play. This month George Grant considers that cheerful phrase we love to use around this time of year.
GEORGE GRANT, COMMENTATOR: “Merry Christmas.” It is likely that we will both say and hear that phrase more than a few times over the next three weeks. For us as believers, it serves as far more than a simple alternative to “Seasons Greetings” or “Happy Holidays.”
We know only too well that true merriment of the heart depends upon grasping the profound reality that Christ Jesus was born in Bethlehem for our salvation. So, we joyfully declare: “He has come to make His blessings flow as far as the curse is found.”
Merry is a word that usually connotes good humor, cheerfulness, and joy. This is how it is often used in the Bible.
In the Book of Proverbs we read, “A merry heart is good medicine.” And, the Prophet Jeremiah declares, “Adorn yourself with tambourines and go forth in the dances of the merry” (Jeremiah 31:4). But, this certainly does not exhaust the word’s meaning.
Originally, merry comes to us from the old Anglo-Saxon word, myryer. It was used in various contexts to mean pleasing, fine, and agreeable. It could also mean melodious, comforting, and sweet. Sometimes it conveyed the idea of bountiful, fruitful, and prosperous. Very often though, it was used to mean illustrious, mighty, and brave.
So, to be merry was not simply to be joyful, cheerful, and gleeful, but often, strong, bold, and gallant as well. It was in this sense that courageous soldiers were called “merry men.” Favorable weather was called “merry weather.” Brisk winds were called a “merry gale.”
Thus, the word merry carries with it the double thought of might and mirth.
As Christians, we are able to engage in spiritual merriment as we remember that, through the redemption wrought by the grace of the Lord Jesus, we have been made “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58). So, “God rest ye, merry gentlemen.”
Merry, Merry Christmas!
For WORLD Radio, I’m George Grant.