Finding Rest in the Waiting

The song God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen has been described as one of the oldest English Christmas carols.

Peace_WreathI did some checking up on this, and apparently it dates back as far as the 15th century. This was a time when towns and villages had watchmen, who stayed up and kept an eye on things – sort of like security guards on the night shift. There are some who suggest that the carol was written for these watchmen. Let’s play with that idea for a moment.

I imagine that being a watchman was dark, lonely work. While everyone else in the city or town was fast asleep, these men had to stay awake, stay alert, and stay on guard. In the winter, around Christmas time, it would have been cold and uncomfortable.

These men would have been waiting with anticipation for the sun to come up so they could rest. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen would have reminded them to find tidings of comfort and joy, not only in looking forward to each morning, but in the birth of Christ the Saviour.

These ideas remind me of Psalm 130, where David writes,

“I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.”

The connection between waiting for the sunrise and being assured of hope seems so fitting in this dark time of year. And a Christmas Song referencing the waiting of watchmen and a call to celebrate the Son’s arrival seems appropriate amidst some of the dark times and dark events going on in our world.

This Christmas season we will sing songs, open presents, eat food and reflect on the Birth of our Saviour. A season of Advent, or waiting, followed by a celebration of Emmanuel, God with us. I hope that you will rest in the waiting and take comfort in the tidings of Joy.

“Israel, put your hope in the Lord,
for with the Lord is unfailing love
and with him is full redemption.
He himself will redeem Israel
from all their sins.”

Just as watchmen wait in the morning, we will wait on the Lord.

NSiebengaNathan Siebenga