It is Christmas, just barely, yet it is Christmas. I just came in from the barn. I fed horses, Longhorns, and a miniature donkey. I talked to them as I went about my business, as I usually do. I asked them about their day and told them about mine.
I know, for some of you, the mere thought is foolish. For those of you who dearly love animals, you know you speak of them as you do children. Many times you make sure they eat before you do. You tend to their every need, and you know they will listen to your concerns even when everyone else is too busy.
However, tonight is special. It is Christmas Eve. It is the night the animals speak. As tradition tells it, Jesus was born exactly at midnight. In the few minutes after the birth of Christ, the animals in the stable were the first ones to praise the birth of the new king. These praises lasted but a few minutes and were over by the time the shepherds showed up, but the legend continues and there are children and adults each Christmas Eve who are a little more attentive to the animals in their keeping.
To all of you who might be asking, “No,” I have never heard the animals talk on Christmas Eve. I have said many a thing to them, but I have never heard a reply. Yet there is a sense that those animals who tended the birth of Christ from the beginning somehow may be more in tune with the coming Messiah than many of us are.
On Christmas Day we celebrate that we live in a world into which the Messiah has come. He has come and is blessing us already. His very presence brings strength, life, hope, joy, and peace into our world of disorder, apathy, depression, and pain.
One of my favorite hymns is, God rest ye merry, Gentlemen.
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.
Oh, tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy,
Oh, tidings of comfort and joy!
The first line of that song is my favorite. The word “rest” has a better meaning of “make” or “keep”. I have often heard people argue for the translation of “merry” as “mighty” when in fact that actually goes against the rest of the meaning of the first verse. We are not mighty. We are in need of radical intervention against a powerful enemy.
The comma belongs after merry which mean that the merry is not a descriptor of gentlemen. The first line is a short prayer or encouragement that God would make us merry and that our merriness comes from the victory already secured for us in Jesus Christ.
The phrase brings us rest and security. I get that same sense when I am out with the animals at midnight. When the one who cares for them is present, when they know they are cared for and loved, even a storm like blew through our area last night with lightning and thunder causes them no worry or concern. They rest in the presence of one they believe will make everything safe and right.
May God grant you that same sense of belonging, safety, and peace!