Go! Tell It!
Written By: Chris Mace
John Wesley Work Jr. was an African American educator and musicologist who compiled, “harmonized,” and published a number of slave songs which came to light during the Great Migration of Blacks from the southern states to the north after the civil war. “Go Tell It On the Mountain” dates back at least to 1865 and was among the spirituals which had been verbally passed through the generations but had never been written down. Published in 1907, it begins with the refrain which also follows each of the three verses.
Refrain: Go, tell it on the mountain, / over the hills and everywhere;/go, tell it on the mountain /that Jesus Christ is born.
Verse: While shepherds kept their watching / o’er silent flocks by night, /behold, throughout the heavens /there shone a holy light. [Refrain]
Verse: The shepherds feared and trembled / when lo! above the earth /rang out the angel chorus / that hailed our Savior‘s birth. [Refrain]
Verse: Down in a lowly manger/ the humble Christ was born, / and God sent us salvation / that blessed Christmas morn. [Refrain]
The authority, sovereignty, power, presence, love, grace, mercy, redemptive work, and purposes of God have always been Good News. Isaiah encouraged Jerusalem, a city nestled among mountains: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.” (Isaiah 52:6-7) Nahum spoke similarly about promised salvation and Judah’s freedom from the Ninevites: “Behold, upon the mountains, the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace! (Nahum 1:15) And the Apostle Paul wrote about the beauty of the Gospel in his letter to the Roman church: “ For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved…. As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (Romans 10:13-16)
“Go Tell It On The Mountain” tells the wondrous, mysterious but necessary story of God’s condescension into humanity as the “humble Christ.” He came as the living expression of God’s loving character. “This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.”(1 John 4:10 (NLT2)
If that is true, then that message is crucial for the redemption of every tribe and nation “everywhere” and is the reason Jesus (from a mountain) instructed his disciples to go to all nations with his Good News, “to preach repentance and the remission of sins.” (Matthew 28:16-29) (Luke 24:47) Such a message is too amazing, too great, too good, too important to be contained. It must be told. It is for everyone.
For the oppressed and restricted slave, the good news of “Christmas morn” was too freeing not to share beyond the mountains and hills within their eye shot. The message that “God sent us salvation” is compelling. That sin and death cannot control or condemn or enslave in the powerful presence of that holy baby in a manger who became the Savior on a cross and the resurrected, living Lord who emptied a tomb is a message worthy of being broadcast over and beyond all hills, mountains, and horizons to people and places everywhere.
Peace of God here on earth! Eternal hope for the future! Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty! Free at last!