Time For Merry Rest

by James Scott Bell

“God rest ye merry, gentlemen.” 

One of the oldest Christmas carols, going back at least to the early 1700s, has a curious comma in it. I daresay most carolers and children who have sung this holiday favorite think the lyric is God rest ye, merry gentlemen. But if you step back a moment, an obvious question arises: if the gentlemen are already merry, what need is there for God to give them rest?

Indeed, the next verse indicates the gents are in some “dismay.” The rest of the stanza reminds them of the Savior and being saved from “Satan’s power.” These are “tidings of comfort and joy.”

The actual lyric places the comma here: God rest ye merry, gentlemen. In other words, may God grant you rest and make you merry, you gentlemen who are bustling around full of anxiety over this and that, and forgetful of the true meaning of Christmas.

Anyone out there carrying around an excess of anxiety these days? Okay, you can all put your hands down now. (Reminds me of the Drew Carey joke: “Hate your job? There’s a group for that. It’s called Everybody, and we meet at the bar.”)

We all can use some merry rest! To get practical, may I make three December suggestions:

  1. Watch less news

None at all might be the best idea. You can catch up in January. Use the time to finally get around to that book you’ve wanted to read. Watch a holiday movie or two (yes, you can include Die Hard if you like). Mrs. B and I are listening to more classical music. We set the radio to KUSC, 91.5 FM in L.A., and leave it on in the background. So much more restful than the sniping prattle of the Fourth Estate.

  1. Do something for someone else

Let’s bring kindness back into fashion. Go out of your way to open a door for someone. Let that car go in front of you in the fast food line. If you walk by a cop, firefighter, paramedic or soldier, say, “Thank you.”

Donate to a charity.

“At this festive season of the year, Mr. Scrooge,” said the gentleman, taking up a pen, “it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir.”

  1. Write a blessings letter 

Your grandmother used to tell you, “Count your blessings.” Take some time to write them down. I know it is harder for some than others. Suffering is part of our world, and always will be. But reminding ourselves of what we can be thankful for is a healing balm. Indeed, studies over the past decade have found that people who consciously count their blessings tend to be happier and less depressed. Anybody up for that?

We’ve just been through a year like no other in our lifetime, and up ahead things look foggy still. Let’s resolve to do 2021 the pulp fiction way:

Keep Calm and Type On

We now bring the curtain down on another year at Kill Zone. Can you believe it? We’ve been here since August, 2008! A pause to catch our collective breath is called for, so tomorrow we begin our annual two-week hiatus. See you right back here on January 4.

Until then, God rest ye merry, TKZers!

55 thoughts on “Time For Merry Rest

  1. Bravo, Jim. I haven’t listened to that song in decades and even when I did the words kind of washed past me. I’m listening to it now (by Barenaked Ladies and Sarah McLachlan). Thanks for that and the great advice, which I need to print out and put on my refrigerator.

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and yours,Jim, and to everyone who visits these pages.

  2. Thanks for the interesting look at a bit of a classic carol, Jim. I hadn’t noticed that before.
    You’re right, we should count our blessings. Some folks have had a horrific year, and no matter how bad *our* year has been, someone else had it worse and is in need of universal love.
    Thank you for consistently showing the TKZers wisdom and grace, and thank you to all who write for TKZ.
    Merry Christmas to all. And may you all find peace, love and happiness.

  3. This year, two things I am thankful for:
    – Technology allows my family to hold Zoom Christmas celebrations with our far flung relatives.
    – The Kill Zone is still going strong after twelve years.

    Happy Holidays, Mr. Bell and devoted Kill Zone posters and readers.

  4. A Merry/Happy Christmas, Festivus, Kwanza, and whatever else you might celebrate to everyone at TKZ.
    As for your suggestions:
    #1 is a no-brainer to me. The Husbster watches the news and keeps me informed should there be something critical. I avoid my Facebook News Feed as well.
    #2 – I’ll repeat the quotes I posted a while back:
    a) “There is only one way to happiness, and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will.” … Epicetus
    b) “You can’t live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.” John Wooden
    #3 There’s always a bright side, as one of my characters says.

  5. Thanks for an enlightening post, Jim. Mystery solved! I wondered about that odd comma placement, too.

    Wishing you and yours a safe, healthy, very merry Christmas and a happy, prosperous, productive New Year. 🙂

  6. Good morning, Jim. Thanks for that musical history lesson. As someone who has sung that carol since I was young, the comma placement never registered with me. We sang the whole first line without any breath. This gives the lyrics more appropriate meaning.

    Thanks for the “count your blessings” – scientific benefits study link. As someone who is always complaining (my parents told me I wouldn’t be happy if I didn’t have something to complain about), your three suggestions are the perfect prescription.

    Merry Christmas and a Happy, Joyous New Year to you and yours, and to the whole TKZ family!

  7. Good advice, all. I can’t thank all of you as TKZ contributors enough for all the work you put in to bring us great posts every day. I learn and laugh a lot. Thanks also to all the commenters, ditto. When you have a great group that helps you add to your TBR pile each year, you know you’ve got a winner!

    I’m sure, like every year, I’ll be clicking on the TKZ link by force of habit, even though we’re all on holiday till Jan. 4. (I have to keep my clicking finger in good shape until we’re all back. LOL!)

    I wish everyone a restful and less stressful holiday.

  8. Like BK, TKZ is part of my automatic morning ritual, as important as coffee!

    I’m grateful to be included among the wise,generous, and witty TKZ contributors. I esp. appreciate the readers and commenters who always keep our hangout interesting and lively.

    Wishing the TKZ family a safe, healthy holiday season! See you next year.

  9. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, Jim! Thank you for a wonderful end of the year post. I’d never noticed that comma placement before in “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen.”

    Your list is the perfect prescription for getting some rest. I’m a huge news junkie, and will implement #1 at once. I’ve done it before but desperately need to do it again. #2 My wife and I have been giving to charities and will continue, but also plan on gifting to the awesome delivery people who keep us supplied here at Casa Smith. #3 on the other hand, I’ve never done, and really need to count my blessings. They are many.

    Keep calm and type on is the perfect News Years resolution for all of us here. See everyone here on January 4th.

    • Thanks, Dale. As a fellow news junkie, let me assure you that a news “fast” really does work wonders. You’ll notice extended periods of peace and cheer. Good for the soul! See you in 2021.

  10. Oh man! Gonna miss all of you, but y’all deserve a rest.

    Thanks, JSB, for this post. Add my name to the list of folks who never noticed the weird comma. Now it makes sense.

    I wish for all of you (not really a wish, but a prayer) a wonderful holiday season with your Zooming relatives and friends and hopefully some face-to-facers, a happy and optimistic New Year, and that your story-telling genes will explode with productivity in 2021.

    Thank you, everyone, for all you add to my writing life. See you in January… 🙂

  11. You left out cat and puppy videos with a mix of YouTube music parodies and the fun nonsense of choice.

    Also, online communities where you can find your emotional and intellectual tribes.

    And God bless the vocative comma, and everyone here.

  12. What a difference a comma makes! I hadn’t really noticed the placement, but always assumed those gentlemen were already merry. It feels good to be educated.

    Thanks for your wisdom, JSB. I gave up the news months ago and I’m amazed at the peace of mind I’ve acquired and the amount of extra time I have to read and write.

    Gratitude? I sometimes fall asleep at night counting my blessings. I am so grateful for TKZ, the time and wisdom donated by the contributors, and the relationships formed with other writers.

    Doesn’t scripture tell us that God loves a cheerful giver? Time, money, friendship, whatever. It all counts for good.

    Wishing you all a merry and peaceful Christmas and a healthy and happy 2021.

  13. Love this Christmas sleuthing. I’ve sung this song a thousand times and never seen that mischievous little comma.

    I have donated both food and money to St. Mary’s Food Bank, for which Arizona gives you a tax credit up to $800. I will write my gratitude letter as soon as my mother gets her vaccine shot.

    Hope we can all begin to trend up as the year ends.

  14. Excellent post. It calls to mind one of my favorite Gospel verses, which has carried me through many moments of anxiety:

    “Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they?” Matthew 6:26

    Great suggestion re: watching the news. I stopped watching around early November, including that channel that represents my “side.”

    Merry Christmas

  15. I’m grateful for getting through the past year and am looking forward to new energy and creative inspiration in 2021.

    As so many others have said, I’m grateful to have TKZ to visit each day for the knowledge and encouragement shared here.

    May every contributor and every reader receive the blessings they desire, but especially those which they most need in this holiday season.

    See you all next year.

  16. I had no idea of the GRYM,G comma placement impact, Jim. But, then. I’m a comma imbecile who looses sleep over whether or not to Oxford. Counting The Blessings – I consider blessed to be asked to join the Kill Zone writers in 2020. Thanks to everyone for confidence and support! Very humbling, indeed.

    More on the Barenaked Ladies & Sarah McLaughlin version – here’s a Youtube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAtUnRkR4n0

  17. Jim, great post as always. It reminded me that Mel and I were surprised earlier this month when someone head of us in line at a drive-through paid for our meal. We were on a trip, and it was a stranger. It was a shock for us, as we are not typically recipients of that kind of generosity. We promised to pay it forward, and we did, but it makes me want to do it again and again. How much peace would we sow if we did that, and then escaped before they even knew who we were, how we voted, what we believed, how much money we made?

    • True indeed, Cheryl. Those little moments are priceless. There’s a great Douglas Sirk melodrama about this called Magnificent Obsession. Rock Hudson, Jane Wyman. I think I’ll watch it again next year. Thanks for stopping by.

  18. Keep calm and write on — those are the watch words for my holiday, Jim. Oh, and if you have an extra dollar or two (yes, even that small a donation), please donate to Feeding America. My teacher friends tell me that children in their classes are having trouble studying because their families don’t have enough food. Some 17 million children in America are hungry. Help them out here: https://www.feedingamerica.org/

  19. Thanks, Jim. One of my blessings is TKZ in my daily perusal. I’m now adding non-perusal of news sites of any persuasion.

    Merry Christmas and see you on the other side.

  20. Thanks, Jim, for the reminders of who we are and what we’re really doing here. Mele Kalikimaka and may you and yours have a joyous holiday.

    As for me, I’m looking forward to 2020 hindsight.

  21. Jim and TKZ ninjas –
    I’ve been hanging around since very near the 2008 start and can’t thank you enough. Enjoy the break though I feel the void each day. 🙂
    Wishing health and happiness to you and yours!

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