Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Caroling the Gospel VIII: Good Christian Men, Rejoice

[NOTE:  This is from a 12-part series I did on another blog.  Hence the tardiness.  I promise, it was timely when I first wrote it.  The rest of the series is available here.  Enjoy!]

Set to a tune knowns as 'In Dulci Jubilo', this German/Latin hymn dates back to the Middle Ages.  That's right--it was originally a macaronic blend of both German and Latin.  The most well-known English translation dates from 1853. 

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!

Good Christian men, rejoice, with heart and soul and voice;
Now ye hear of endless bliss: Joy! Joy! Jesus Christ was born for this!
He has opened the heavenly door, and man is blest forevermore.
Christ was born for this! Christ was born for this!

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!
A pretty straightforward carol, this song begins by encouraging Christians to 'rejoice with heart and soul and voice,' in an echo of Christ's summary of the first and greatest commandment. (See Matthew 22:36-38)  This admonishment is repeated in each verse, but with a slightly different reason for rejoicing.  The first verse points to the birth of Christ as cause for celebration. There is the obligatory nod to the physical setting of his birth--in a manger, surrounded by animals. (See Luke 2)

The second verse continues the call to whole-hearted exultation by drawing our attention to the purpose of Christ's birth--the opening of heaven's door and the resulting eternal blessing to mankind.   This door is open for anyone who knocks (Matthew 7:7-8), but time is short, and not all will enter the door (Matthew 25:1-13; Luke 13:24-25).  And for those on the outside, there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  (Luke 13:28-29)  But for those who will enter, salvation awaits.  (John 10:9)  His death opened up a way for us to have fellowship with God--the curtain separating us from God was torn in two when he died.  (Mark 15:37-38; Luke 23: 44-46)  Through his blood we can now enter the Most Holy Place and commune with God Himself.  (Hebrews 10:19-22) The dividing wall has been destroyed, and reconciliation is possible.  (Ephesians 2:13-16)  This reconciliation is the reason Christ was born.

The third verse spells out the purpose of the incarnation even more explicitly--'Jesus Christ was born to save!'  (See Matthew 1:21)  Because of this salvation, we no longer need to fear the grave.  (I Corinthians 15:54-56; Hebrews 2:14-15)  And this offer of salvation and life is extended to the entire world!  True, not all will accept--only those predestined. (Romans 8:29-30; Ephesians 1:4-13)  But all are invited.  Any who would come would be welcome.  (John 3:14-16, 5:24; Revelation 3:20)  Many are invited to 'join his everlasting hall', but few are chosen.  (Matthew 22:1-14)

So even though this carol does not mention the death and resurrection of Christ--the means by which this salvation was accomplished--or man's sinful state, the message of gospel is still there.  The purpose of the Christ's birth--salvation--is clearly proclaimed, and this gospel message is well worth celebrating.

To read the next entry in the series, 'Caroling the Gospel IX: The First Noel', click here. 

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