Born in Germany in 1295, Heinrich Suso was the son of a German nobleman. In his youth, he lived the life of luxury and was educated in the best schools. The time period is called, the Dark Ages, a period where the people were separated into classes and the poor lower classes were subjected to cruelty, and despair. Even though he was born to a wealthy family and had every advantage, Suso chose to join the Dominican priesthood.
In 1326, he wrote a book, the Little Book of Truth, which encouraged bringing the gospel in a simple and understanding way to the common people. Because of this, he was tried for heresy. But Suso continued his work which he called a divine war. Because he could not be controlled, the Pope condemned him and the German king exiled him. Susa fled to safety in Switzerland. Susa continued to preach about the happiness that came from living the Christian life. One night Susa had a dream where he saw a host of angels singing and dancing and in his dream he joined in the dancing. When he awoke, Susa recorded the song which became, “Good Christian Men, Rejoice.” Throughout his life, Suso reached out to the common masses with the Christian message of this song he heard in his dream.
James Mason Neale, an English priest who was inspired by Ruso’s work, started a religious order for women called the Sisterhood of St. Margaret who could care for orphaned children. Neale translated Ruso’s German song into English and in 1853 it was published in, Carols for Christmastide. “Good Christian Men, Rejoice,” became one of the most popular Christmas songs in Europe and America. [Information taken from, “Stories Behind the Best-Loved songs of Christmas,” by Ace Collins]
You can listen to this hymn here: