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Luke 2:9-12 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”
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.
History of the Song
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. During that time, the vast majority of common folk were illiterate. Bibles were scarce and the ones that did exist were written in Latin, a language of the upper class. So it could be that the writer of this song wrote it from an understanding of Christ’s birth that was passed down orally from generation to generation. It can be noted, in support of this theory of authorship, that in the second stanza it says the shepherds “looked up and saw a star.” The Bible does not say the shepherds saw the star, only the wise men.
The Song We Sing
The First Noel, in its present form, was 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. In addition to Christians, Non-believer are also familiar with this beautiful song. Its final stanza certainly speaks well to the gospel of the newborn Savior . . .
Then let us all with one accord, sing praises to our heavenly Lord; That hath made heaven 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 heavenly Lord.” He who “hath made heaven and earth of naught,” who “with His blood mankind hath bought,” Jesus is the One we celebrate, the One we proclaim, the One we rejoice in and sing to at Christmas. So as we sing The First Noel, let us appreciate its simplicity and find joy in its jubilant message.
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