Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Come Adore, Day 7

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Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Before we start Revive Our Hearts today, I have a warning for you; what you’re about to hear could be life-changing! That’s what Kelly Needham discovered. She stumbled onto Revive Our Hearts in a way that seemed really random.

Kelly Needham: I was given an iPod Nano by a friend randomly, when my husband and I were on tour . . .

Nancy: Kelly’s husband is singer/songwriter Jimmy Needham. Now, back to the gift . . .

Kelly: . . . and I started listening to it. She said, “You’re welcome to keep the content on there, or erase it all and do your own thing.” I was flipping through what she had on there, and there were some Revive Our Hearts podcasts.

I had not heard of Revive Our Hearts before, but I did recognize the name Nancy Leigh DeMoss. I had read part of a book of hers in college. And so, I was attracted by that and decided to start listening. It was in 2008, the year of the first True Woman conference. I was sort of listening while I was running, and since then I’ve been listening—up to this day.

Nancy: Kelly discovered Revive Our Hearts at an important time in her life.

Kelly: I was two years into being married. Marriage was not an easy transition for me. God exposed a lot of pride in my heart through being married to a man who had a real public ministry—and I was not prepared for that.

And so, I was wrestling, even in the conviction of the Lord with, “What does it look like to move forward in my marriage?” And here I was, listening to these podcasts. I had jumped into them in the middle of the year where they were talking about womanhood and how the gospel applies to that. . .

I was listening to roundtable talks through Revive Our Hearts of all these women—a lot of it discussing marriage. It became a grace for me and gave me some real practical ways to walk out, in a more life-giving way in my marriage, the gospel and serving my husband for the glory of God—no longer for the glory of myself. It really was something that I started to treasure in 2008.

Nancy: And just think . . . for the past eight years, Kelly has been learning to live out the beauty of the gospel in her marriage, as a mom, and now in her own writing ministry. I can’t help but wonder how might that picture have been different if God hadn’t used Revive Our Hearts in her life?

The reason those podcasts were available is because some Revive Our Hearts listeners supported the ministry financially back before 2008. Those gifts to the ministry allowed someone to download teaching programs and pass them on to a young wife and mom who needed this message.

When you support Revive Our Hearts, that’s the kind of connection you’re making possible! You’re not just making a donation; you’re making an investment in the lives of families that will pay off for years to come.

Now, as we’ve been sharing with you recently, almost half of the donations that this ministry needs for the entire year arrives in the month of December. So, to encourage you to get involved this month, some generous listeners have established a matching challenge fund of $600,000.

They will double your gift when you support the ministry by calling 1–800–569–5959, or you can donate online at ReviveOurHearts.com. When you give any amount this week, we want to say thank you by sending you the piano Christmas CD I recorded called Come Adore.

Today on Revive Our Hearts, we’ll talk about one of the songs on that CD, and you’ll find out why you can have joy—no matter what may be going on around you.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts for Tuesday, December 6, 2016, with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth—author of The Quiet Place.

Nancy: Well, it’s an interesting thing to me (and I hope it is to you) to learn something about the background of these carols that we treasure, that we sing throughout the Christmas season. Many of the carols that we know and love and sing today were originally folk songs for the common people.

They were written as a reaction to the music of the fifteenth century church. The songs of the organized church—usually in Latin in that era—mostly had somber, heavy melodies, and there wasn’t a lot of joy.

The laypeople—the peasant class—had no control or influence over the music of the church, so when they left the church walls, they created their own music. They wrote songs that were upbeat and in the language that they could understand. These Christmas folk songs were the early versions of what we now know as Christmas carols.

Today, as we continue in our series "Come Adore: The Gospel in the Carols," we want to look at one of the best-known and most-loved of the early Christmas carols. Some scholars believe that this may have been sung as early as the fifteenth century—sung by English peasants some five-hundred-plus years ago.

It was first published—or printed—in 1833, and it’s actually referenced in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol ten years later. So it was catching on. It had been published, and he referenced it in that classic work.

Let me read to you the words of this song. I won’t read every stanza, but most of them, because I want you to get the story that is told in this carol. This is true of many Christmas carols—they tell a part of the Christmas story. I want you to get the story.

When we skip some of the stanzas, when we just sing the first ones or the last ones, sometimes we lose those middle chapters and we don’t get the whole line of what is going on in this story.

God rest ye merry, gentlemen, et nothing you dismay,
Remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas Day;
To save us all from Satan's power wWhen we were gone astray.

O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy;
O tidings of comfort and joy.

From God our heavenly Father a blessed angel came;
And unto certain shepherds brought tidings of the same;
How that in Bethlehem was born the Son of God by name.

"Fear not, then," said the angel, "Let nothing you affright
This day is born a Savior of a pure virgin bright,
To free all those who trust in Him from Satan's pow'r and might.

The shepherds at those tidings rejoiced much in mind,
And left their flocks a-feeding in tempest, storm and wind,
And went to Bethlehem straightway, the Son of God to find.

But when to Bethlehem they came where our dear Savior lay,
They found Him in a manger where oxen feed on hay;
His mother Mary kneeling down, unto the Lord did pray.

Now to the Lord sing praises all you within this place,
And with true love and brotherhood each other now embrace;
This holy tide [this holy news] of Christmas all others doth deface.

Now, that’s kind of a mouthful of words, but I think you get the idea. This is the story of the shepherds going and finding the Son of God lying in a manger where animals would feed themselves—in an animal feeding trough, so to speak.

It calls us to join with them in discovering who He is and why He came, and to know that the news of Christmas—these great tidings that the angels brought to the shepherds—erases and removes all the bad news that you could hear in the world today.

Now, it doesn’t do that immediately, but in the long run, this is the news that wins! This is the news that conquers!

I want to focus on the first stanza and the chorus in our time today, and we’ve got to start with that first line and the title, because it’s been a source of confusion to a lot of people: "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen."

Now this is line that’s often misunderstood, and it’s one of these places where when you love grammar, you’ve got to love this, because the placement of the comma is really important. Sometimes the way you’ll hear it said or see it written is: "God Rest Ye [comma] Merry Gentlemen." But that’s not where the comma belongs.

The comma doesn’t come before merry gentlemen, it comes between those two words, so it should read: "God Rest Ye Merry [comma] Gentlemen." (And can I say, this whole time we’re talking about this carol, we can include gentlewomen in this as well!) 

This song is not addressed to a group of merry gentlemen, but it’s a blessing and prayer addressed to gentlemen—to people—who are listening to it. Now, you say, “Okay, well, what’s this whole thing about God rest ye merry gentlemen? What does that mean?”

We have some archaic words here, and the meaning of words can change—and does change—over time. So, “rest ye merry” is not a phrase that we use in everyday language. It’s an Old English expression, and that phrase “rest you merry” or “God rest you merry”—these are phrases that were in common use during those days in which they were written.

In fact, we find these phrases and some similar ones in some of Shakespeare’s plays around the beginning of the seventeenth century. It was a common expression of greeting or of saying farewell. The word “rest” in that era meant “to make” or “to keep.” “God rest you merry”—“God make you or keep you merry.”

And the word “merry” is just “joyful” or “glad.” So, “God rest you merry” means: “May God make you joyful; may God keep you glad; may He grant you joy; may He give you peace.” This was a prayer. “Gentlemen, may God make and keep you joyful.” "God rest ye merry, gentlemen, let nothing you dismay.”

So in the first line we have being merry. In the second line we have not being dismayed—the contrast of being merry with being dismayed. He’s saying, “Don’t let anything trouble you or disturb your peace. Instead, may God give you joy!”

This is something we need to be saying—maybe in a little more modern way—to people throughout this Advent season: “May God give you joy! May God bless you with gladness; may nothing trouble you or disturb your peace!”

Yet the reality is—and we’ve said this as we’ve talked about some of these other joyful carols—that we live in a world that is filled with things that could easily dismay us, or make us fearful, or cause us to be discouraged.

There is terrorism, there is pain, there is sorrow, there is sadness in our world. And during this Christmas season while many are celebrating . . . and eating . . . and having parties . . . and taking time off, there are many who are also battling depression, sadness, fear, and a whole host of others who will be doing that after they come after the holiday high, right?

So, “let nothing you dismay,” and yet we live in a world where many things do dismay us! So what’s the cure? What’s the antidote? How can we “rest merry” when the world seems to be imploding around us?

“God rest ye merry, gentlemen, let nothing you dismay . . .” How do we do that? Well, it’s the next two lines: “Remember.” Remember—there’s something we need to remember. And when we do remember it, it will make our hearts glad. It will keep us from being dismayed. It will keep us peaceful and joyful.

What are we to remember? “Remember, Christ our Savior was born on Christmas Day.” This is an encouragement to those who are sorrowful or dismayed. And we learn that comfort and joy are found in the good news of Jesus birth!

“Don’t be afraid!” the angel said to the shepherds. “Don’t be afraid. Don’t be dismayed.” Why? Because Christ our Savior has been born on this Christmas Day.

Now, throughout the Scripture we see that there is great joy and rejoicing that surrounds the birth of Christ. Do you remember that for 400 years between the end of the Old Testament—which, by the way, ends with a curse. It’s bad news when we get to the end of the Old Testament. 

From that time until we get to Matthew 1:1, there are 400 years where we don’t hear anything from heaven, and the whole world lives in darkness, despair! In the midst of that time the Roman Empire comes to fullness. It’s a despotic, tyrannical empire. People are dismayed in droves! They are fearful, they are terrified—much as we are experiencing in many parts of our world today. And then, when Jesus comes on the scene in the gospels—particularly in Luke chapters 1 and 2 (which have a fuller explanation than some of the accounts surrounding the birth of Christ) you see joy exploding like fireworks!

It’s just penetrating the sadness and the dismal period of what has preceded it. You see joy everywhere . . . splashes of joy. Let me just read some of those to you from the gospel of Luke. In Luke 1:14, when the angel spoke to Zechariah about the birth of John the Baptist, who would be the forerunner of Jesus, he said. . .

And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth.

Splashes of joy! Elizabeth, Zechariah’s wife, said to Mary of Nazareth, who came to visit her,

Behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy (Luke 1:44).

Splashes of joy! And then, more splashes of joy. Mary of Nazareth (who was now carrying the Christ child in her womb) says to Elizabeth (who is carrying John the Baptist—the forerunner of the Messiah),

My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior (Luke 1:47).

More splashes of joy surrounding the birth of Christ! Then, in Luke 1:57–58,

Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son [he became known as John the Baptist]. And her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. 

More splashes of joy! That’s all in Luke chapter 1! Then we come to Luke chapter 2, verse 10, and the angel says to the shepherds,

Fear not [don’t be dismayed!], for behold, I bring you good news of great joy . . . 

What in the world did shepherds have to be happy about? Not much, in that era. But, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” And then the angel gives the reason: 

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (v. 11).

There’s a reason for rejoicing. Yes, you’ve had this dismal existence—day after day after day after day—not the most notable or laudable career . . . Actually, the shepherds were low on the totem pole of desirable vocations. These men are just gutting it out day after day in hard laborious work with no hope, no joy, no peace—just dismal tidings. And then, you get one more piece of news about what the Roman Empire is doing, and you go back to your dismal condition. Until the angels split the sky wide open, and this great host says to the shepherds, "Glory to God! We bring you good news of great joy. A Savior has been born this day!”

And then, the Scripture tells us in Luke 2:20, “And the shepherds returned.” After they went to Bethlehem and saw the Child, they returned back to their ordinary, everyday, eking-out-an-existence lifestyle. But how did they return? They were different. They were "glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.” More splashes of joy!

So they went, they found the joy, and they came back to what had been a dark, drab, colorless existence. And here were splashes of joy—good news!—because Christ has been born. The same thing happens in Matthew chapter 2:9–10 when the Magi come, maybe a couple of years later (we don’t know exactly how long).

They come to find the Christ child, and Scripture says,

The star . . . went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy

This is not just splashes of joy—this is joy bubbling up and overflowing and filling everything and everyone!

I mean, that’s superlative: “They rejoiced exceedingly with great joy!” How much more joy could there be? Because the supreme, consummate, ultimate joy in this earth is not found from anything on this earth, but from One who came to this earth to bring the joy of heaven to earth.

So the carol says, “God rest ye merry . . .” God keep you joyful, God make you glad, gentlemen—and gentlewoman. Let nothing you dismay. Nothing! Nothing you could hear today: no doctor’s report you could get; nothing you could see in the news; no summons that could be served to you from a divorce attorney—nothing!

“Let nothing you dismay. Remember! Remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas Day, to save us all from Satan’s power when we were gone astray.” You see, this is important because the biggest problem in this world and the ultimate cause of all our dismay, all our anxiety, and all our fear is not what someone else has done to us, but it’s that we have sinned!

We’ve gone astray, all of us, and we were all subject to Satan’s power. [Satan says], “You sinned. You took that fruit from the tree. You go from being under God’s authority. Now you’ve put yourself under my authority!” And Satan puts his thumb on, and keeps under his power, those who have gone astray.

He keeps us under his dominion, and the implications of that in this world are monstrous. Because it’s not just one sinner or two sinners or three sinners . . . not just a dozen people who have gone astray or a few dozen or a few hundred or a few thousand or a few million. It’s every human being who has ever lived, has gone astray, and is under Satan’s power and Satan’s dominion. You see what a world full of people who have gone astray can do to inflict harm and damage and perpetrate evil in the world. It’s horrific!

That’s what ISIS is. It’s nothing more than the combined, collective snowballed sin of the human race—the same kind of sin that’s in our own hearts, the same kind of sin we were born with under Satan’s power, under his dominion. We could not save ourselves. We needed to be saved from Satan’s power! But, remember. Remember! Christ our Savior was born! And thank God that He didn’t wait to save us until we who had gone astray returned home to Him. We never would have returned home to Christ. We were bent on going our own way.

We had no power to return to Christ, like dead people have no power to move or to go anywhere. We were spiritually dead; we were separated from God. We were dead in our trespasses and sins, the Scripture says. So we would have never sought after Him.

But He bridged that gap between heaven and earth. He came to this earth while we still sinners, while we had gone astray. Christ was born, and He came not just to be born, but He came to die the death that we deserved for our sins.

Remember! “Christ our Savior was born on Christmas Day to save us all from Satan’s power when we were gone astray.” It’s no wonder we have that wonderful chorus, “Oh, tidings of comfort and joy.” Comfort and joy!

Do you need comfort? If you don’t today, you will before too very long, because sad things and hard things happen to all of us. Do you need comfort? Do you need joy? Is your world full of dismay? Is it dismal? Is it dark? Is it dreary? Do you need peace? Are you fearful?

Well, the Scripture tells us that Jesus is the God of all comfort and all joy. He is the source of all true merriment, happiness, and joy. It’s Christ our Savior who gives pardon for sin and relief from guilt. He's the One who redeems us, the One who reconciles us to God, the One who gives us peace with God.

If you have Him, then no matter what else is going on in your world, you have cause for great joy. You have cause to rejoice exceedingly with great joy! Now, people are looking for that kind of joy in all kinds of places. They look for it anywhere and everywhere other than in Christ.

They’re looking for it in this season. They’re just hoping that some party, some great dessert that they saw on Facebook (and they’re making for their family as we speak!), some family time, some work bonus, some time off, some gift that they’ll receive, some great vacation they’ll be able to take to a warm place. . . They hope something is going to give them peace and joy and rest and relief from being dismayed. But I want to tell you, they can do all those things—and those things might give a temporary pick-me-up, a temporary boost. There are a lot of fun things in this season, and there is nothing wrong with those things. But if those are the things you’re looking to, to give you freedom from dismay, freedom from fear; if those are the things you’re looking to, to keep you merry, to make you joyful—you will not find it in any of those things.

Remember! Christ our Savior was born on Christmas Day. He is the source of joy and merriment. Now, remembering that Christ was born—and even having Him as your personal Savior—won’t immediately make all your problems go away. I don’t have to tell you that. You know that.

But what it will do is put your circumstances in perspective. It will give you hope. It will remind you that He’s got the whole world in His hands, and that heaven wins and heaven rules—no matter what’s happening in the White House, no matter what’s happening in your house, no matter what’s happening in anybody else’s house that may affect you. You’ll realize that Jesus wins! Jesus rules! And that you have cause to “rest merry.”

Don’t be dismayed; don’t give into despair. “Christ our Savior was born on Christmas Day to save us all from Satan’s power when we were gone astray!” That’s the news that we need to hear this Advent season.

That’s the news we need to remember; that’s the news we need to focus on. Romans 5:11 says, “We . . . rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” Friends, this is the message; this is the news that we have, not only for our own hearts, but for the world around us that is in despair.

And so, the opportunity and the privilege and the challenge in this season is to call upon others to remember that Christ has been born, and that He can make them merry and keep them joyful!

Leslie: We all know Christmas is supposed to be a joyful time, but it’s easy to get caught up in bad news and busyness and miss the joy. Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been calling us back to a sense of joy, continuing in the series "Come Adore: The Gospel in Carols."

We would like to keep reminding you of the power of the gospel by sending you Nancy’s piano CD called Come Adore. It includes the songs she’s been exploring in this series. When you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any size, we’ll say "thanks" by sending you the CD.

Ask for it when you call 1–800–569–5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com. We’ll send one CD per household for your donation of any amount during this series.

Tomorrow, Nancy will continue showing us the gospel in carols, focusing on the wonder that Jesus would leave heaven to come to a place where He was rejected. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts. 

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV.