God rest you merry gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay
Remember Christ our Saviour
Was born on Christmas Day
O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy.
So runs the words of a well-known carol. Tidings is an old or literary word, meaning news, which is used especially in carols and songs to refer to the good news of Jesus' birth: glad/good tidings, joyful tidings or tidings of comfort and joy.
The carol spells out the wonderful message of Christmas that Jesus has come into the world. Superstition has fixed most positively the day of our Saviour’s birth, although there is no possibility of discovering when it occurred. Fabricius gives a catalogue of 136 different learned opinions upon the matter; and various divines invent weighty arguments for advocating a date in every month in the year. It was not till the middle of the third century that any part of the church celebrated the nativity of our Lord; and it was not till very long after the Western church had set the example, that the Eastern adopted it. Because the day is not known.
The joy which the gospel writer spoke of was no mean one, for he said, “I bring you good tidings”—that alone were joy: and not good tidings of joy only, but “good tidings of great joy.” Every word is emphatic, as if to show that the gospel is above all things intended to promote, and will most abundantly create the greatest possible joy in the human heart wherever it is received. Man is like a harp unstrung, and the music of his soul’s living strings is discordant, his whole nature wails with sorrow; but the son of David, that mighty harper, has come to restore the harmony of humanity, and where his gracious fingers move among the strings, the touch of the fingers of an incarnate God brings forth music sweet as that of the spheres, and melody rich as a seraph’s canticle. Would God that all men felt that divine hand.
Since this joy is expressly associated with the glory of God, by the Words, “Glory to God in the highest,” we may be quite clear that it is a pure and holy joy. No other would an angel have proclaimed, and, indeed, no other joy is joy.
Holy joy is the joy of heaven, and that, be sure, is the very cream of joy. Nor does the joy of the world lie in philosophy. You could not have made a schoolmen’s puzzle of Bethlehem if you had tried to do so; it was just a child in the manger and a Jewish woman looking on and nursing it, and a carpenter standing by. There was no metaphysical difficulty there, of which men could say, “A doctor of divinity is needed to explain it, and an assembly of divines must expound it.” It is true the wise men came there, but it was only to adore and offer gifts; would that all the wise had been as wise as they.
Here was “The Word made flesh” to dwell among us, a mystery for faith, but not a football for argument. Mysterious, yet the greatest simplicity that was ever spoken to human ears, and seen by mortal eyes. And such is the gospel, in the preaching of which our apostle said, “we use great plainness of speech.” Away, away, away with your learned sermons, and your fine talk, and your pretentious philosophies; these never created a jot of happiness in this world. Fine-spun theories are fair to gaze on, and to bewilder fools, but they are of no use to practical men, they comfort not the sons of toil, nor cheer the daughters of sorrow. The man of common sense, who feels the daily rub and tear of this poor world, needs richer consolation than your novel theologies, or neologies, can give him. In a simple Christ, and in a simple faith in that Christ, there is a peace deep and lasting; in a plain, poor man’s gospel there is a joy and a bliss unspeakable, of which thousands can speak, and speak with confidence, too, for they declare what they do know, and testify what they have seen.
Our task is to preach, by God’s help, yet more earnestly the gospel, the simple gospel of the Son of Man. Jesus, Master, I hope we can sincerely say this Christmastide that we take thee to be mine for ever,
I wish you all a most Blessed and Happy Christmas.