Wednesday, November 29, 2006

"To free all those who trust in Him..."

Although decorations have been on sale and carols have been playing in the stores for weeks already, we are only now entering the Advent season. Wilfred McClay, at Touchstone Magazine, reminds us that the Christmas lesson is of Light piercing darkness, and if we forget the darkness, we forget the significance of the event.
"...Our Christmas carols are among the most precious shared possessions of our fragmenting, fraying culture, and for all that we abuse them and demean them, they seem to remain imperishable.

This year, somehow it's been God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen that has stuck in my brain, and particularly these words, in the first verse: 'To save us all from Satan's power/ When we were gone astray.' We move through these sibilant words so quickly and rhythmically. I know I always have. And yet how plainly those few words sketch in a somber background, a whole universe of presuppositions without which the song has a very different, and diminished, meaning....

We are constantly reminded to 'keep Christ in Christmas' and to remember 'the reason for the season.' And of course we should. But, if I may be permitted to put it this way, we must also keep Satan in Christmas, and not skip too lightly over the lyrics that mention him.

For he and the forces he embodies are an integral part of the story. It utterly transforms the way we understand Christmas, and our world, when we also hold in our minds a keen awareness of the darkness into which Christ came, and still must come, for our sake. Later in God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen the visiting angel tells the shepherds in the field that Christ has come 'To free all those who trust in him/ From Satan's power and might.'

....[T]he 'comfort and joy' of which the song speaks are not merely outbursts of seasonal jollity.

They bespeak the ecstatic gratitude of captives and cripples who recognize that, in and through Christ, the entire cosmos has been transformed, and their lives have been made new. Nothing can ever be the same again...."
Source: Touchstone Archives: God Rest Ye Merry

God rest ye merry, gentlemen, let nothing you dismay,
Remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas 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.

“Fear not, then,” said the angel, “Let nothing you afright
This day is born a Savior 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.

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