Old Doxoblogy

Thursday, December 07, 2006

What's So 'Merry' About Christmas? Part One

Why is Christmas 'merry'?
Is it because we give gifts?
Is it because we receive gifts?
Is it because all the family is together for a meal?
Is it because of the economic boost that results in retailers finally making it into the black?
Is it because of the 'magic' of the season?
Is it because of the good mood that some people exhibit? (No one I know!)
Is it because of a baby in a manger?
Is it because it represents a time of giving, love, or togetherness?
Is it because angels announced the babies birth?

Maybe for some people, but not for me. I don't think that is the case for Luke either.
The day of Christ's birth was not a particularly joyous time, humanly speaking.

Joseph was being taxed, his girlfriend was carrying another's child, they had to make a long journey to Bethlehem, Mary was due at any moment, there was no room for them in the inn so they had to sleep in a stable, Mary delivered her baby, all they could find to cover the newborn baby with was grave clothes, and he had to sleep in a feeding trough.

It doesn't sound like a particularly joyous occasion on the face of things, does it?
"But what about the angels?"
Oh yeah. The angels appeared to some shepherds and scared them stiff. The last thing Mary and Joseph were looking for was company. And the angels told those shepherds to go visit the new baby. How many mothers do you know who are anxious for their babies to be handled by strangers?


Anonymous said...

Let's see I went to the online etymology dictionary and here is what it has to say for merry.

O.E. myrige "pleasing, agreeable," from P.Gmc. *murgijaz, which probably originally meant "short-lasting" (cf. O.H.G. murg "short," Goth. gamaurgjan "to shorten"), from PIE *mrghu- (cf. Gk. brakhys, L. brevis "short," see brief (adj.)). Connection to "pleasure" is likely via notion of "making time fly" (cf. Ger. Kurzweil "pastime," lit. "a short time;" O.N. skemta "to amuse," from skamt, neut. of skammr "short"). The only exact cognate for meaning outside Eng. was in M.Du. (cf. M.Du. mergelijc "joyful"). For vowel evolution, see bury.

"Bot vchon enle we wolde were fyf, þe mo þe myryer." [c.1300]

The word had much wider senses in M.E., e.g. "pleasant-sounding" (of animal voices), "fine" (of weather), "handsome" (of dress), "pleasant-tasting" (of herbs). Merry-making is attested from 1714; merry-man "companion or follower of a knight, outlaw, etc." is attested from c.1386. The first record of merry-go-round is from 1729. Merry-bout "an incident of sexual intercourse" was low slang from 1780. Merry-begot "illegitimate" (adj.), "bastard" (n.) is from 1785. Merrie England (now frequently satirical or ironic) is 14c. meri ingland, originally in a broader sense of "bountiful, prosperous." Merry Monday was 16c. term for "the Monday before Shrove Tuesday" (Mardi Gras).

From the dictionary:

1. full of cheerfulness or gaiety; joyous in disposition or spirit: a merry little man.
2. laughingly happy; mirthful; festively joyous; hilarious: a merry time at the party.
3. Archaic. causing happiness; pleasant; delightful.
—Idiom4. make merry, a. to be happy or festive: The New Year's revelers were making merry in the ballroom.
b. to make fun of; ridicule: The unthinking children made merry of the boy who had no shoes.


[Origin: bef. 900; ME meri(e), myrie, murie, OE myr(i)ge, mer(i)ge pleasant, delightful]

Now considering that the last book of the prophets in the Tanach ends with:

"Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction."
(Mal 4:5-6 ESV)
Perhaps its a Merry (joyful in the archaic sense) because instead of destroying the land and its inhabitants God is sending the saviour.

Anonymous said...

I don't know where you are going with this, but I am glad you got the whole stable-feeding trough thing right. Maybe my life and service on the bloospere is not totally wasted after all.