Archbishop Fiorenza thanked the Serrans for their energy and the great things done for the church. He then talked about the original meaning of Merry Christmas. The original meaning of the English word ‘Merry’ was peace. But now the word has taken on a new definition – joyfulness, jollity, high spirits, and other trivial meanings.
If we think about the Christmas song, God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen we see a comma after the word Merry. Therefore in this Christmas song, peace is being offered to God’s men and God’s ladies. It is a prayer, in which we offer God’s peace to someone. If we recapture the original meaning then, there should be no thought of offending someone when we say Merry Christmas.
New Years’ day is the World Day of Prayer for Peace. Pope Paul VI started this day of prayer. Pope Benedict XVI recently expanded on this concept when he said that the Human Person is the heart of peace.
The human person is in the image of God and has value, dignity, and equality. And the thing that puts peace at risk is when we ignore the equality of persons. To have peace we must have respect for each human person.
St Augustine's said, "God created us without our help, but God cannot save us without our help." We see how these words relate to peace when we see that peace is a gift of God, and the gift of peace cannot happen without our cooperation. We all want peace, we pray for peace, however peace is not only the cessation of war. It is interior joy that we can convey to others through love.
We should become the peacemakers Jesus wants us to be, and when we say Merry Christmas to others, we are praying that peace will descend on them.