Re-post: To You I Say So Much More Than Happy Holidays!

A Merry Christmas to my faithful readers! What a pleasure it is to know you are there each week even though I don’t see you in person. So, brimming with faith and good cheer, I say to you during the week before Christmas: A very merry Christmas to you and yours!

Originally, when this greeting, Merry Christmas, first formed (back in in the period of Middle English or earlier), “merry” meant “peaceful” or “pleasant.”

So far as I’m concerned, those original meanings represent a part of what this holy season should mean. Along the way, the word merry drifted toward such meanings as “high spirited” or “jolly.” I think those adjectives fit the Christmas season too.

From the birth of Christ onward, this holiday (note: holy day) has picked up numberless practices, traditions, and customs from many sources.  Examples are exchanging gifts, feasting, kissing under the mistletoe, etc. — and Christendom has attempted to draw them all together into one celebration.

To large portions of the world, whether Christian now only by tradition or Christian due to a living faith in Christ, the day is peaceful and pleasant because on it we celebrate the coming of the world’s only Savior – Jesus, the prince of Peace.

So because of a living faith in the salvation he came to bring we can seek to be peacemakers in our world, despite that world’s sometimes shocking conflicts whether glaring or subtle, near at hand in our personal lives, or on distant soils.

The word Christmas originated as ”Christ Mass,” definitely a religious term. Although for Protestants it is not a mass, a word which in its origins meant death, it is about Christ, and definitely a day to celebrate the coming of God in bodily form in order that by this means he could become our Savior.

All of this is why I send you a warm greeting and the wish that this Christmas season will be peaceful and pleasant and also full of good cheer!

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2 thoughts on “Re-post: To You I Say So Much More Than Happy Holidays!

  1. Thank you for sharing your heart and knowledge with us. I learn a great deal form reading. If I get behind I soon catch up in this busy world of ours.

    A very Merry Christmas to you, your wife, and all of your family.

    Frank

  2. A merry Christmas to you Pastor Don. It’s been a pleasure getting your blog every Monday.It’s become an important fixture of my week

    I always print out ‘Just Call Me Pastor’to share with my friend from church who hasn’t internet access,,after Thursday or Saturday Lord’s Supper.Christine and I both like and appreciate your important subject matter ,and your interesting writing style each week.

    Christine can recall her childhood impressions of the bombings in 1940 ,when the previous Coventry St Michael’s was bombed & lost it’s roof.. I know you have visited both the old bombed cathedral and the new St Michael’s which adjoins it.Having the old and new adjoining each other is useful at Easter ,when we process from the old to the new resurrected cathedral ,in fitting symbolism.

    Well I never. I studied Middle English and love the works of Chaucer,the Gawain poet and the lovely old poem ‘Pearl’ as well as ‘Piers the Plowman’ and Lady Julian’s ‘Revelations of Divine Love’,Lady Julian describes Christ’s love as ‘hamely’ which I find perfect,taking it to mean courteous,down to earth,homely. Yet I never realized merry ,as in Merry Christmas ,meant peaceful and pleasant.

    It makes sense.As in this 13th century middle English poem ,which describes summer as fair and pleasant- ‘Merry it is while summer lasts ”

    Mirie it is while sumer y-last
    With fugheles song
    Oc nu neheth windes blast
    And weder strong.
    Ei, ei! What this nicht is long
    And ich with wel michel wrong
    Soregh and murne and fast.

    My paraphrae would be

    [ Merry it is while summer lasts,
    with bird song
    but cold winds blow
    and harsh weather
    Oh,oh, how long this dark night lasts
    And I ,for my many sins,
    Sorrow ,mourn and fast ]

    I often say Happy Christmas or Blessed Christmas or Holy Christmas.I value the high spirited jollity of Christmas but merry can also mean moderately inebriated.This sense of merry I feel uncomfortable with when juxtaposed with Christmas.

    I’ve seen the damage strong liquor does in families and shrink from alcohol.The only alcohol I imbibe is the tiny sip of communion wine at Lord’s Supper ,in memorial of Christ’s blood shed for all.

    I understand early Methodists avoided strong liquor like the gin prevalent in 18th century England.I know John Wesley drank ale and perhaps wine.He even brewed his own beer and wrote about it,I believe.But he avoided gin or hard liquor like the plague.

    I believe that temperance to the point of teetotalism became the norm amomg many Methodist revivalists ,especially in the Americas,after Wesley’s passing and have even attended Methodist Lord’s suppers here, where even the juice of the vine shared at communion is not alcoholic.

    At St John’s church in Coventry city centre ,in an Anglican church so unusually high Anglo- catholic as to have a confession box, disaster struck some years ago,Drunk and rowdy late night revellers disrupted Midnight Mass,even breaking some panes of the church’s medieval stained glass windows.Police had to evict them.It was a sad and sorry affair.

    After a talented Christian friend,a congregant of Through The Roof Church in Flinton, Ontario,wrote a song in support of MADD Canada,I became involved in supporting that charity .I became aware of the devestation to peoples lives caused by inebriated driving

    For these reasons I was inhibited from saying Merry Christmas,though it has a hearty robust ring to it.It’s down to individual judgement whether to abstain from alcohol or or simply be moderate in one’s intake ,but I would certainly advise against excessive drinking and certainly advise against driving and drinking..That way lies harm and misery.

    But now I know the calm miidle English meaning of merry ,as meaning peaceful and pleasant,I adopt the greeting Merry Christmas with enthusiasm,since I’ve always liked it’s ring .

    Christmas Eve is a lovely time,peaceful and pleasant.In Germany the beautiful hymn ‘Stille Nacht’ is sung ,fully evoking this feeling.Here in Britain, we are talking about 100 years ago,- the famous Christmas truce in World War 1.

    German soldiers raised Christmas trees above their trenches and German,French and British soldiers exchanged good will greetings on No Mans Land .They even kicked a football about in impromptu play.Perhaps Canadian soldiers too,joined this truce if they were in the area..Certtainly many many Canadian boys died at Psschendale.

    Farmers here in England used to share this piece of Christmas Eve rustic folklore .It is said cattle – descendants of the beasts that knelt in reverence at the stable in Bethlehem – kneel still, each Christmas Eve at midnight
    .
    Thomas Hardy,novelist and poet ,wrote about it in his novel of countryfolk ‘Tess of the Durbevilles’ .Poor Hardy lost his faith as he grew older .Perhaps that’s why ,in one of my favourite Christmas poems, ‘The Oxen’, he hopes ,on Christmas Eve ,to see the oxen kneel.He hopes with all his heart it might be so.I hope before death ,that he regained his faith at the last.

    Perhaps the poem is old fashioned and sentimental ,but for me it is about a man who is sad by his own loss of faith and wants it back.

    ‘The Oxen’ by Thomas Hardy.

    Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock.
    “Now they are all on their knees,”
    An elder said as we sat in a flock
    By the embers in hearthside ease.

    We pictured the meek mild creatures where
    They dwelt in their strawy pen,
    Nor did it occur to one of us there
    To doubt they were kneeling then.

    So fair a fancy few would weave
    In these years! Yet, I feel,
    If someone said on Christmas Eve,
    “Come; see the oxen kneel,

    “In the lonely barton by yonder coomb
    Our childhood used to know,”
    I should go with him in the gloom,
    Hoping it might be so.

    Merry Christmas to you Pastor Don, and to your family and all your readers.

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