In a time when good Christian men are hard to find, I found today’s carol very refreshing. Though I know it applies not only to men, I choose to be very literal today with its message. After all, it was written in the 14th century, so it would not be surprising if the author meant exactly what he wrote. The carol is Good Christian Men, Rejoice,* and the message is clear:
Good Christian men, rejoice with heart and soul and voice! Give ye heed to what we say: Jesus Christ is born today…
The first verse is the familiar sounding Christmas story, but the words pierce in the next two verses by saying:
…Now ye hear of endless bliss: Jesus Christ was born for this. He has opened heaven’s door, and man is blest for evermore.
…Now ye need not fear the grave: Jesus Christ was born to save; Calls you one and calls you all, to gain His everlasting hall.
My mind goes back to the days of its writing, and I wonder the reaction of those men who heard its tune. Endless bliss? In a time of such struggling and despair? Don’t fear the grave? How? When children die young, mothers die in childbirth, disease takes us all?
Did good Christian men have reason to rejoice? Do men have reason to rejoice now?
Yes, for the message that was good news to those who heard it under Roman oppression is the same good news for those who lived in the 14th Century, and for us who live in the confusing days of the 21st.
Why is it good news? Why should men rejoice? Because this song is a reminder that the coming of Christ is not only about making my today better but about securing a better eternity, which is so much more important. Life on this earth is just a dot in comparison to the life to come.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.**
Are you rejoicing, Christian man? Are you telling others why? The world needs to hear men sharing this message of hope. Lift up your heart and soul and voice and rejoice!
*WORDS: Medieval Latin Carol, 14th Century; tr. John Mason Neale, 1818-1866. MUSIC: Traditional German Carol, 14th Century.
**2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NIV)