Good Christian Men Rejoice (Advent 22-2014)

Good Christian Men Rejoice, our latest traditional carol for Carol Me, Christmas (2014 Advent Devotional Series), is an interesting example of how music evolves from an original through translations and into the present day.  I won’t often do a citing straight out of Wikipedia, but today’s is really fascinating, presented in a way one cannot duplicate.  In describing the carol as the Latin In dulci jubilo dating back to the 14th century, they offer this comparison chart. 


First verse textual comparison

German/Latin   text
by Heinrich Seuse,   c.1328

English   literal translation

Translation   by Wedderburn,   c.1567[9]

Translation   by Pearsall,   1837[10]

Good   Christian Men Rejoice
by Neale, 1853

In dulci jubilo,
Nun singet und seid froh!
Unsers Herzens Wonne
Leit in praesepio;
Und leuchtet wie die Sonne
Matris in gremio.
Alpha es et O!
In sweet rejoicing,
now sing and be glad!
Our hearts’ joy
lies in the manger;
And it shines like the sun
in the mother’s lap.
You are the alpha and omega!
Now let us sing with joy and   mirth,
In honour of our Lordes birth,
Our heart’s consolation
Lies in præsepio,
And shines as the sun,
Matris in gremio.
Alpha is and O, Alpha is and O.
In dulci jubilo,
Let us our homage show!
Our heart’s joy reclineth
In praesepio;
And like a bright star shineth
Matris in gremio.
Alpha es et O!
Good Christian men, rejoice
With heart, and soul, and voice;
Give ye heed to what we say:
News! News!
Jesus Christ was born to-day:
Ox and ass before Him bow,
And He is in the manger now.
Christ is born today! Christ is born today.

Returning to my thoughts now:

Of course, the irony is that the addition of “men” in Neale’s version has now been changed in the gender-inclusive modern hymnals as Good Christian Friends Rejoice.  Frankly, it never bothered me to have it be “men,” especially among Christian friends.

Probably more curious to me is why “the manger” and “mother’s lap” remain the Latin even into the 1800s.  And what I think is more disturbing, theologically speaking, is the removal of “the Alpha and Omega” (the Beginning and the End), except for the version by Robert Lucas [de] Pearsall, the “de” being an ennobling addition by his daughter to his given name.

Fascinating for the times, is that the Enlightenment occurred between the translations by Wedderburn and Neale.  Why then did Pearsall’s version still have the Alpha and Omega?  Well, it turns out that Pearsall was a Romantic in the truest sense of the 19th century Romantics.  He was a throwback of sorts, having a fondness for antiquarian interests, spurning the industrialization occurring all around him, and embracing historical aesthetics in his musical compositions.  While he began life as a Quaker, he was interred in a Roman Catholic cemetery which may explain why he returned to the Latin when he was received in the Catholic Church.

The Alpha and the Omega is a great title for who Jesus is.  It’s informative that 9 of the 12 New Testament references to the Alpha and the Omega, including ones where Jesus applies this title to Himself, occur in the book of Revelation. To remove the “last days” notion from Good Christian Men Rejoice rather diminishes the amazing truth of why we rejoice!  To Enlightenment sorts, the fact that Jesus Christ is the Beginning (truly before all recorded time) and He is the End (of all earthly history) doesn’t compute with their scientific understandings.  The Alpha and the Omega is also a title conveying both sovereignty and all authority.  Something that would be offensive to those of Enlightenment mindsets, and even today worthy of ridicule by those who worship science, this Alpha and Omega is Who was lying in a manger and in Mary’s lap.  Just amazing!

As you listen to this version by The Salvation Army Brass Quintet  ponder our Thought Focus for Today.

Thought Focus for Today: Jesus Christ is the Alpha and the Omega. 

How does it change your view of Christmas to know that the One who created everything…was chosen before time began…to be born, to enter into our human struggle as a baby, and to save us in His adulthood?  Then, of course, this baby at Christmas is also the One who sits on the throne with all power and glory as Eternal Judge to judge us.  Does it give Good Christian Men Rejoice a new meaning?

good christian men rejoiceGood 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!




Carol Me, Christmas (2014 Advent Devotional Series) began November 30th.  By way of reminder, if you haven’t signed up yet, you can receive these devotional studies in your email throughout Advent 2014 by entering your email address on the home page in the space provided in the sidebar.  Or “Like” the SeminaryGal Facebook page to access them there.  If you like these devotionals, I’d really appreciate your letting others know so I can continue to spread the Good News far and wide.  Blessings to you, in Christ always, Barbara <><

Categories Chapel Worship/News | Tags: | Posted on December 21, 2014

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