Christmas: ‘God Rest You Merry, Hammonton’
This time of year, Gina and I like to drive around town together and look at the Christmas displays people put up on the outside of their homes.
It’s a simple pleasure.
And we’re never disappointed.
Many of the streets have home after home decorated: white lights, colored lights, inflatables, wooden cutouts and a variety of other decorations are all presented for the public.
While we drive around town looking at the bright lights on each house or on businesses in the downtown or uptown, we have Christmas carols on the radio.
One time, years ago, one of my favorites came on: “God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen.”
It’s verses are haunting, not exactly the “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” or “Frosty the Snowman” kind of Christmas song.
It’s a bit dark, but then again, this time of year, we’re reminded with Christmas trees and lights on the exterior of houses that we can push back on darkness, and not just the physical darkness that comes with the winter solstice and the time change this time of year.
Those lyrics from “God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen” always stay with me:
“God rest you merry, gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay
Remember Christ our Savior
Was born on Christmas Day
To save us all from Satan’s pow’r
When we were gone astray
Oh tidings of comfort and joy
Comfort and joy
Oh tidings of comfort and joy”
I like looking at the lights and hearing the music and spending time with people I care about at Christmas. It reminds me that there is lightness to balance out the darkness.
But I won’t lie to you: There is darkness out there. We encounter it in our work at The Gazette as we cover the town. The local police see it. The doctors and the medical professionals see it.
Maybe you see it, too.
This time of year, it often feels to me that the perpetual tug of war between the light and the darkness is seen a bit more easily. I’m not exactly sure why, but it may have to do with the fact that at Christmastime, we remember the sacrifices that have been made for us, and we try to go out of our way for others. It tends to point up the difference between what is good and what is not good in this life.
During this season, we try to make a difference with the light we bring into other people’s lives—a light that’s brighter than any bulb or tree. It’s the light of fellowship, of kindness, of taking time to make a positive difference by giving of ourselves to help others.
Why not join in the spirit of the season?
You can donate to a local cause. You can drop off food to a local food pantry. You can spend some time with a person who can’t leave their house due to illness or old age. You can join in a worship service or a Mass. You can hang out with friends and family and just enjoy the company.
In other words, you can bring “tidings of comfort and joy” to the people around you.
The town we live in has always had its light and dark parts. I like to think the light is winning overall, but I’m not naïve enough to tell you that the dark doesn’t have its days. My Christmas wish to all Hammontonians is far more days filled with light in the coming year.
God Rest You Merry, Hammonton—and a heartfelt Merry Christmas to all.
Gabriel J. Donio is the publisher of The Hammonton Gazette.