The Story Behind “Good Christian Men, Rejoice”

There is not much known about this Christmas hymn, and what we know, we don’t really. It is more legend than anything. The man with whom original authorship is attributed is Heinrich Suso (Suese), back in the 14th century (1328 AD), making it one of the oldest Christmas hymns we sing today.  Suso was a Dominican monk exiled to Switzerland because he was a bit too much of a mystic for the Pope’s liking.  While there, he claims to have dreamed of angels singing all around him. He began to join in the song and then dancing (definitely not a Baptist). When he awoke, he remembered his dream and all the lyrics to what they sang. He put pen to paper and wrote what would ultimately be referred to as In Dulce Jubilo (In Sweet Rejoicing). It is thought that Martin Luther may have also contributed to one of the verses though we can’t know that for sure.

Later on another man–John Mason Neale (of whom I share a birthday)–an Anglican priest, translated In Dulce Jubilo into English in the 1850s. We still sing this version today. As you read the lyrics, notice the progression of the gospel message, starting simply with the fact of Jesus’ birth, then the reason for Jesus’ birth (to open heaven’s door), and the culmination of Jesus’ birth (to save).

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

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 hath op’ed the heavenly door,
And man is blessed 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!

You can check out my other “story behind” Christmas song articles by clicking/tapping on their links:
I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
It Came Upon The Midnight Clear
Silent Night, Holy Night

3 thoughts on “The Story Behind “Good Christian Men, Rejoice””

  1. Thank you for your well written and researched article. I have been following an Advent devotional on YouVersion that peaked my interest regarding this carole. Your information truly enhanced my knowledge on this song. Thanks again.

    Liked by 1 person

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