Advent Calendar | Dec. 18

7 Days Until Christmas

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bibleSCRIPTURE

“When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy.” (Matthew 2:10)
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THE FIRST NOËL

LYRICS

Detail from “Annunciation of Christ's birth to the shepherds,” illuminated manuscript from the Book of Hours, in Latin and French, c. 1450.

Detail from “Annunciation of Christ’s birth to the shepherds,” illuminated manuscript from the Book of Hours, in Latin and French, c. 1450.

The first ‘Noël!’ the angels did say
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.
Noël! Noël! Noël! Noël!
Born is the King of Israel!

They looked up and saw a star
Shining in the east, beyond them far;
And to the earth it gave great light,
And so it continued both day and night.
Noël! Noël! Noël! Noël!
Born is the King of Israel!

And by the light of that same star
Three wise men came from country far;
To seek for a King was their intent,
And to follow the star wherever it went.
Noël! Noël! Noël! Noël!
Born is the King of Israel!

This star drew nigh to the northwest:
O’er Bethlehem it took its rest;
And there it did both stop and stay,
Right over the place where Jesus lay.
Noël! Noël! Noël! Noël!
Born is the King of Israel!

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ABOUT THE CAROL

1. “The First Noël” is an English Christmas carol, most likely from the 16th or 17th century, though possibly as early as the 13th century.

2. The French word “Noël” means “Christmas.”

3. “The First Noel” is of Cornish origin. It was first published in “Carols Ancient and Modern” in 1823.

4. The title is sometimes spelled “The First Nowell.” “Nowell” is an anglicized version of the French word.

5. The lyrics have been belittled as “a sincere, devout attempt of a peasant to put the Christmas story into rhyme,” or worse, “crude poetry.” Nitpickers also like to point out that the song contains some historical inaccuracies: It mentions the shepherds, instead of the wise men, seeing the star, and it places the star in the east (from whence the wise men came) rather than the west (the direction they would have been traveling).

6. Despite criticisms, the song is a favorite and has been recorded scores of times.

Sources:

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praying-hands-columnPRAYER

O God, it has been 2,000 years since the first Noel. Praise to you that the hope and wonder of Christmas remains fresh. Amen.
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