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“And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. And the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people.'” (Luke 2: 9-10 – NASB)

The First Noel . . . another of many old carols that we hear often today. This Christmas song has a bit of mystery to it in regards to its origination. At one time both France and England claimed it was theirs. It would seem that France has the upper hand in regards to the word, “Noel,” but some sources say there is more evidence that the song migrated from Great Britain to France and not the other way around.
    The first Noel, the angel did sing,
    Was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay;
    In fields where they lay keeping their sheep,
    On a cold winter’s night that was so deep.
        Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel,
        Born is the King of Israel.
Interestingly, England and America for some time spelled the word Noel differently than as we see it in its form today. They titled the song, “The First Nowell.” France, on the other hand, always spelled it “Noel.” It basically means the same thing in both instances: “a joyful shout expressing the exhilaration at the birth of Christ.”

As men have studied this carol they are in agreement that it was probably written by a layman in the Middle Ages, who had enough grasp on the record of Christ’s birth that he was able to put these words together. This particular period of time found the vast majority of common folk to be illiterate. Bibles were scarce and the ones that did exist were written in Latin, a language of the upper class. So it probably can be said that the author, over a period of time, heard the Christmas story and eventually put it to song. It can be noted, in support of this theory of authorship, that in stanza number two it speaks of the shepherds looking up and seeing “a star.” The Bible does not associate “the star” with the shepherds but only with the magi.

So, authored in the Middle Ages, The First Noel, in its present form, was first published in 1833 by William Sandys. Certainly it has stood the test of time and continues to be heard frequently in today’s celebration of Christmas. I would tend to think that non-believers as well as believers are very familiar with it. Its final stanza certainly speaks well to the gospel of the newborn Savior . . .

Then let us all with one accord

Sing praises to our heav’nly Lord,

That hath made heav’n and earth of naught,

And with His blood mankind hath bought.

Surely this rings true in this Christmas season . . . that we who are the redeemed are to “sing praises to our heav’nly Lord.” He who “hath made heav’n and earth of naught,” who “with His blood mankind hath bought,” He is the One we celebrate, we proclaim, we rejoice in song to at this Christmas time. So as we sing The First Noel, let us appreciate its simplicity and find joy in its jubilant message.

Have a good day brethren . . . and as you walk do so with an appreciation of the message of Christ’s birth in song.


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