Posted by: rcottrill | November 4, 2013

Good Christian Men, Rejoice

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Words: Heinrich Suso (b. _____,1295; d. _____1366); English paraphrase by John Mason Neale (b. Jan. 24, 1818; d. Aug. 6, 1886)
Music: In Dulci Jubilo (In Sweet Rejoicing, or Jubilation), a 14th century German melody

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Heinrich Suso was a Dominican monk. The earliest known version of his text is found in a manuscript from 1400 (thirty-four years after his death). There is a legend that Suso heard angels singing the carol, and joined them in a heavenly dance of joy. Legends aside, the carol gives us a vehicle for the joyful celebration of the birth of Christ.

Neale’s free rendering was published in 1853, and he made two changes in the text that have no parallel in the original.

¤ He began each stanza with a line not in the original, “Good Christian men, rejoice”–which the gender police are wont to change to “Good Christians all, rejoice.

¤ Thomas Helmore, the music editor of Neale’s collection, made an error in the transcription of the tune, which Mr. Neale accommodated by adding a two syllable fourth line to each stanza–“News! News!,” “Joy! Joy!” and “Peace! Peace!

There is a great deal of joy associated with the incarnation of the Son of God. When an angel announced to Zacharias that his wife would give birth to John, the forerunner and herald of Christ’s coming, he was told, “you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth” (Lk. 1:14; cf. 1:57-58).

When the angel Gabriel visited Mary to reveal God’s plan, he greeted her with “Rejoice, highly favoured one!” (Lk. 1:28). John the Baptist, still in the womb of Elizabeth, “leaped…for joy” when Elizabeth met the pregnant Mary (Lk. 1:44). Mary herself “rejoiced in God my Saviour” at what the Lord was doing (Lk. 1:47).

At the birth of Christ, an angel announced to shepherds on the Bethlehem hillside “tidings of great joy which shall be to all people” (Lk. 2:10). Later, when the wise men saw the Bethlehem star that was to lead them to “He who has been born King of the Jews” (Matt. 2:2), “they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy” (Matt. 2:10).

CH-1. The wonderful “News! News!” that caused such cascading joy was “Jesus Christ is born today.”

CH-1) Good Christian men, rejoice,
With heart and soul, and voice;
Give ye heed to what we say:
News! News!
Jesus Christ is born today;
Ox and ass before Him bow;
And He is in the manger now.
Christ is born today!
Christ is born today!

CH-2. There is “Joy! Joy!” because “He has oped [opened] the heavenly door,” and provided access into the very presence of God.

“Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith” (Heb. 10:19-22).

CH-3. The believer has peace with God (Rom. 5:1), reconciled to Him through the sacrifice of Christ. This provides a great reason for inner peace, in that we are freed from condemnation, and are assured of a place in the heavenly kingdom. The “everlasting hall” is a way of describing heaven, with the thought of it being a large building or room for assembled worshippers. As a more literal rendering of the original puts it: “We should all be lost / Through our crimes, / But He has gained for us / Joys of heaven.”

CH-3) Good Christian men, rejoice,
With heart and soul and voice!
Now ye need not fear the grave:
Peace! Peace!
Jesus Christ was born to save!
Calls you one and calls you all,
To gain His everlasting hall:
Christ was born to save!
Christ was born to save!

1) What are some reasons for joy and peace at the birth of Christ?

2) What other carols do you know and use that have a strong emphasis on these themes?

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


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