DECEMBER 22, 2017
By Tom Fitton
We might be tempted by current events to feel less than merry this Christmas. Our work on your behalf at Judicial Watch this year has certainly taken us down dark alleys where those in power would hide their misdeeds, a less than cheerful business.
So let me share a bit of history about the expression “Merry Christmas” to lighten our hearts for the holidays.
We can trace the expression “Merry Christmas” to England in 1534 when John Fisher writes it in a letter to Thomas Cromwell:
And this our Lord God send you a merry Christmas, and a comfortable, to your heart’s desire.
In this year life in England is brutal. Epidemics of dysentery, tuberculosis, influenza and the mysterious sweating sickness sweep the land. Henry VIII executes thousands for large or small offenses. Thought crimes against him could be fatal. To reach 40 is considered a long life.
And yet someone proclaims Merry Christmas.
The use of the term merry next gets an endorsement in 1843 in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. And the first commercial Christmas card the same year announces “A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You.”
Yet in England in this year millions of working poor toil long hours in mines, factories and docks – if they can find work. Children labor in the factories to survive. Large families crowd into single rooms, living on a diet of dry bread, onions, and milk.
Still, the people share a “Merry Christmas.”
One more curiosity about this word merry. To us it means happy and cheerful. It is derived from the Old English myrge, which meant “pleasing, agreeable.” But that word is derived from the Proto-Germanic murgijaz, which probably meant “short lasting.” The connection to pleasure is likely through the notion of “time flies when you’re having fun.”
Thus in our wishing Merry Christmas there is the unspoken element of time. And so it should be. The Scriptures tell us that, “when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son.” It happened in the darkness, Mary being forced by order of Caesar Augustus to travel by donkey just as her Son is due, and to deliver in a stable, a poor man’s accommodation.
In the fullness of time. I’m reminded daily in our work that everything takes more time than we would wish, especially when those in power resist our exposing their malfeasance.
Yet the great event of history we now celebrate – the arrival of a bright star over a dark stable – came in its own good time. Christian or not, I’m sure most agree our Creator has a correct moment for everything. We are the impatient ones.
Let us then take the strife of our day and our imperfect leaders as a blessing, a shadowy backdrop that makes the hope-filled light of this season ever more brilliant.
So, it is my pleasure, on behalf of the Judicial Watch family, to wish you and yours a Merry Christmas!