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First Noel

First Noel
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by Kerby Anderson

During this Christmas week, I have taken the time to discuss the theology of some of the Christmas hymns and carols that we sing. Today I would like to talk about The First Noel. It is an English song dating back to the sixteenth century. Some people believe that the First Noel was French because of the French spelling of Noel, but it is actually an English song. The French word Noël does mean “Christmas” and is relevant to the lyrics of the song. The First Noel was first published in 1833 when it appeared in the work, Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern.

The first line of the song suggests that a December date for the birth of Christ: “The first Noel, 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.” Although many doubt that Jesus was born in December, there are some theologians (such as the author of the Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ) who believes that a December date is possible.

Whatever the case may be about the date of the birth of Jesus, the song continues: “Born is the King of Israel!” It reminds us that a king was born that night. Yet few understood the significance of a birth in Bethlehem.

Even the wise men from the East did not completely understand the significance of His birth, but they were guided to Him by a star. “For all to see there was 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.”

The song goes on to say that “three wise men came from country far.” The Bible does not tell us how many wise men there were. We know there were three kinds of gifts
(gold, frankincense, and myrrh).

What the Bible clearly teaches, however, is that Jesus was born and that He is “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

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