One of the older carols on record, sometimes literally referred to as “the old Christmas Carol,” this song has been around since at least the sixteenth century, if not earlier. God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen has been a central part of the cannon seemingly forever.
Depending on the printed edition and the century, the many verses recount the Nativity story, with a first and last verse to crown the tale. And while most people are extremely familiar with the first verse, the last verse does the best job of summarizing the Gospel:
Now to the Lord sing praises all you within this place, and with true love and brotherhood each other now embrace; this holy tide of Christmas all others doth deface: O tidings of comfort and joy...
For there is nothing more central to the message of Christ than the love of one another. His birth was no exception. Even from the very beginning his life began a movement to change the world with a love more powerful than hate, than sin, than evil, than death. That is the light born on Christmas. The tidings of comfort and joy for all the world.
Though Nat King Cole’s version was the standard until quite recently, Pentatonix’s cover has become the new adaptation beloved by many.