God Rest You Merry
Christmas came, we rejoiced briefly amid too-many-things-to-do, Christmas went; then January crashed in on me, unceremoniously, with its backpack of trauma, dreads and fears. The let down from Christmas was fierce and unrelenting.
I fumbled for focus, for footing. Thankfully, Christmas actually lasted twelve days in our household this year, and I had more time than usual to internalize again the well-known carols. “God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen” stuck around past New Year’s and I decided to linger in it awhile, reveling in its hopeful message and gracious reminders. The world might be too much with me, but God’s story held hope for something other.
“Let nothing you dismay!, the carol reminded me. Stay merry through January and beyond. Stay joy-filled, for Jesus came to destroy the works of the enemy, rescuing us not just once but every day from the world’s evil and scorn. “To save us all from Satan’s pow’r” meant Immanuel wasn’t just with us in His birth and incarnation, He STAYS with us in the moments of our days, standing between us and the worst plans of the enemy, redeeming and turning the darkness to light.
My fears didn’t want to listen. What about the inevitable conflicted discussions about theology and ministry practice? Those didn’t sound particularly appealing. What about the lack of funds, the push for teamwork, the forging ahead to create unity? What about the day in and day out drudgery? I whined that it all seemed too hard, too constant. My drop-in-the-bucket efforts were too small, too wearing, too wearying, too little, too late, and too impossible.
I groveled for a moment, but then the “O tidings of comfort and joy” part rose up. “Listen, fears,” I scolded, “no, you will not take Christmas and trash it in January. No, you will not drag me through an alone and hopeless January. No!” I told them, as I stood up on the inside, and I meant it.
The carol and the Spirit prompted me. God had sunrises after sunsets. He held hope in darkness, promises in vacuums, and encouragement in deserts. He didn’t come to leave me stranded, facing lonely Januaries after sparkling Christmases. He came to save me from the world, the flesh, and the devil, and give me new strength and hope.
“God rest ye merry,” the carol commanded me in January. Stay hopeful, stay focused. Let the Son of God defeat the enemy once again, even while you are tempted to stray into pity and depression, it told me. Let nothing you dismay, soul. Tidings of comfort and joy may stay for the whole year – don’t pack them away at Christmas!
I fingered the one tiny Christmas crèche ornament still hiding on my desk, just to remind me. Glad tidings, it said again and again, glad tidings of comfort and JOY!