Text: Medieval carol Tune: In dulci jubilo
1. Good Christian friends, rejoice With heart and soul and voice; Give ye heed to what we say: Jesus Christ was born today. Ox and ass before him bow, And he is in the manger now. Christ is born today! Christ is born today!
2. Good Christian friends, rejoice With heart and soul and voice; Now ye hear of endless bliss: Jesus Christ was born for this! He has opened heaven's door, And we are blest forevermore. Christ was born for this! Christ was born for this!
3. Good Christian friends, rejoice With heart and soul and voice; 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. Christ was born to save! Christ was born to save! Tr. John Mason Neale
Text: N. F. S. Grundtvig (1783-1872). Tune: Carl Christian Nicolaj Balle (1806-1855)
1 The bells of Christmas chime once more; The heav'nly guest is at the door. He comes to earthly dwellings still With new year gifts of peace, good will.
2. This world, though wide and far outspread, Could scarcely find for you a bed. Your cradle was a manger stall, No pearl nor silk nor kingly hall.
3. Now let us go with quiet mind, The swaddled babe with shepherds find, To gaze on him who gladdens them, The loveliest flow'r of Jesse's stem.
4. Oh, join with me, in gladness sing, To keep our Christmas with our king, Until our song, from loving souls, Like rushing mighty water rolls!
5. O patriarchs' Joy, O prophets' Song, O Dayspring bright, awaited long, O Son of Man, incarnate Word, Great David's Son, great David's Lord!
6. Come, Jesus, glorious heav'nly guest, And keep your Christmas in our breast; Then David's harp-string, hushed so long, Shall swell our jubilee of song. Tr. Charles Porterfield Krauth (1823-1883)
MEDITATION This is the first Sunday after Christmas, and also St. John’s Day. Now we are pondering the good news of a great joy that the shepherds received from the angels and which they ran to see in the manger. The theme of the whole Christmas time is encapsulated in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth on him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” In dulci jubilo!
Luke does Jesus’ genealogy back to Adam, son of God. Matthew does it back to Abraham; John begins at the beginning, when the Word was with God.
Our carols teach who Jesus is. The first carol comes from the 1400s as a dance to which words were added. It teaches who Jesus is: born in a manger, born to save and born to give us everlasting life. Because the people at the time were for the most part illiterate, the church used pictures and songs like this to teach the faith. Since carols first appeared as dances, the people knew them in their feet. Church leaders added words to them so people could sing them. That gave the people a richer sense of the Incarnation which they could read in their cathedrals, in the stained glass windows, the statuary all around, and from songs like this.
Although we hear that the people were illiterate, meaning they could not read or write, that does not mean they were dumb or uneducated. Scholars like Eamon Duffy have argued that the Biblical knowledge of the people in Medieval Europe was deep and rich as anyone knows who has read Chaucer or William Langland’s Piers Plowman. They knew it well, from the OT to the NT.
Grundtvig’s hymn also tells the story of going to the manger and pondering there what we see. Its many stanzas have strong connections with Luther's hymn, "From Heaven Above," as well as biblical stories, like Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be consoled. Jesus is the fulfillment of the prophecies. For this we sing praise with David. As the shepherds worshiped the baby and left praising God, they knew he was the fulfillment of the prophecies they had heard all their lives. And so did Mary. No wonder Luke tells us that after they left, she pondered all these things in her heart. I am sure that over her lifetime she returned many times to the events we are singing about these days. Her pondering is an example to us now in these quiet days between Christmas and New Year. For joyful pondering, again, let me commend Bach’s Christmas Oratorio BWV 248. The first three parts written for the first three days of Christmas tell the story of the shepherds rushing to the manger. As we do, time and again.
HYMN INFO The hand of John Mason Neale is once again evident in the first carol. The hymn is probably from the 1400s in Leipzig. It was first printed in Joseph Klug's Geistlich Lieder in 1533, entitled an ancient song. Robert Pearsall did a macaronic version of the carol with Latin and English in 1837. That version is a staple in the "Nine Lessons and Carols" from King's College and the version most of the links below use.
Grundtvig’s hymn was inspired by Martin Luther’s "From Heaven Above." He first wrote 27 stanzas, but shortened it over time as did future hymn editors to 9. The use of the bell to announce someone or some event is well known even today. Here the bells ring out for the beginning—when Christ is at the door waiting entrance. The hymn was first printed in Grundtvig’s collection Sang Værke til den Danske Kirke 1837 and then included in following hymnals with fewer and fewer stanzas. Christian Balle, a Danish pastor who had much to do with Danish hymnals, wrote this tune.
LINKS King’s College Choir this Christmas Eve https://youtu.be/Xoc-TbVxXBc
In dulci jubilo Libera choir https://youtu.be/F3uflMbmQ2A
Mannheim Steamroller https://youtu.be/_ytb_P8IUv4
DET KIMER NU TIL JULEFEST National Danish girls choir https://youtu.be/J5MX8eWoYH8
Musica Ficta Bo Holten choir Denmark https://youtu.be/NjX5M1u2P4s
Aage Kvalbein and Iver Kleive, Cello and Piano https://youtu.be/S_wtrLo6Y94
Sondre Bratland and Iver Kleive https://youtu.be/EeU7b9VOQKo
Bach's Christmas Oratorio BWV 248
The Norwegian Soloist choir and Oslo Symphony
Part 1 https://youtu.be/yHTqP5s12eg
Part 2 https://youtu.be/_81kjqWd6LU
Part 3 https://youtu.be/HK0hWw0dA-k
English translations of the first three--scroll down a bit for the translations https://bernstein.classical.org/features/bachs-christmas-oratorio/