Good Christian Men, Rejoice

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As 2020 draws to a close, people everywhere are hungry for good news.
Here are some happy news stories that have managed to stay under the radar this year:
Giant pandas and manatees were taken off the endangered species list in 2020, and tigers are rebounding in the wild for the first time in more than a century.
Some 800,000 volunteers in India planted 50 million new trees during a single 24-hour period.
Studies show that U.S. veteran homelessness has declined by 50% over the past 10 years.
Earlier this year the government of Columbia and FARC rebels signed a peace agreement that ended a decades-long war that killed or displaced 7 million people.
Measles has now been eradicated from North, South, and Middle America. 
The African nation of Malawi saw the HIV rate amongst children drop by 67%. 
Twenty nations established 40 new marine parks – protected stretches of ocean – which together equal the size of the United States.
Canadian researchers developed an Ebola vaccine this year that has proven to be 100% effective. 

There’s something about good news that makes our hearts soar.
People who lived in the first century were hungry for such news, too.  Here’s what they heard:
A son of God has arrived amongst us in human form.
This new deity will usher in a Golden Age – peace on earth and goodwill to all who receive him.
The Greek word for this world-changing announcement is euangelion – the Good News or “Gospel.” 
We’re speaking, of course, about the official message that Augustus – who ruled Rome from 27 BC to 14 AD – was not just the adopted son of Julius Caesar, but the son of the Greek god Apollo.  He promised peace – but only at the point of a sword.  Those who resisted his rule were burned alive, thrown to animals, or crucified.  Such was the gospel of the Roman Empire. 
According to Luke 2:1, a rival message of Good News was proclaimed in the backwater province of Judea.  “During the reign of Caesar Augustus,” a baby was born to Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem.
The claims of Augustus have long been forgotten.  As one Bible commentator points out, Caesar is a name chiefly associated these days with pizza parlors and pet dogs. 
Good Christian Men, Rejoice is a traditional carol that spotlights that rival Good News from the ancient world – a story that just keeps getting better. 
The most interesting part of the song actually resulted from an accident.  In 1853 a Swedish copyist misread the manuscript of this upbeat carol that had already been around for centuries.  He accidentally added two long notes in the middle of each verse.
In the pre-photocopier era, that flub actually became part of the tune – even though it obviously disrupts the flow.  To compensate, the copyist added two new words to the text:  “News! News!”  Carolers have been singing that memorable mistake ever since.
Good Christian Men, Rejoice is one of the oldest carols still cherished in the 21st century.  According to legend, the German mystic Heinrich Seuse penned these 600-year-old verses after dreaming that he was invited by angels to join in a dance.  The tune is known to have existed since 1305.
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 hath ope’d the heav’nly door and man is blessed evermore.
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!

The medieval spirit of the song is captured in this performance by the Magdalen College Choir from Oxford, England.
What’s the best message any of us will hear in the days ahead?
News! News! 
God’s Son is alive and well and ushering in a new world order.
Which is why we all can rejoice.  With heart and soul and voice.