The First Noel

Read: Luke 1:68-79

To give light to those who sit in darkness. (v. 79)

The French word for Christmas is noel; a noel is also a Christmas carol. The first one, as we well know, was sung “to certain poor shepherds, in fields as they lay.” Its text was the “Gloria in Excelsis”; “Glory to God in the highest,” sang the angels to the shepherds, “and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14). The first noel was a short song, but it pretty well summed up the Christmas message. “The First Noel,” on the other hand, is quite long. This anonymous English carol combines the story of the shepherds (from Luke 2) with that of the magi (Matt. 2). If you have the stamina, singing all of them will get you through the whole Christmas story.

The carol connects the shepherds to the wise men via the star of Bethlehem. Stanza 2 imagines the shepherds looking up to see a star in the east. Then in stanza 3, “by the light of that same star,” the wise men come traveling toward Bethlehem, and we follow them as they followed the star all the way to the place where the child lay, where we watch them come reverently in and open their gifts to him.

In the last stanza we’re all invited into the light to worship our Lord, worship that echoes Zechariah’s song in today’s reading: 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.

As you pray, ask God to accept your praises today.

Listen along: The First Noel – Andrea Bocelli, The First Noel – Maverick City Music

About the Author

Rev. Dave Bast retired as the President and Broadcast Minister of Words of Hope in January 2017, after 23 years with the ministry. Prior to his ministry and work at Words of Hope, Dave served as a pastor for 18 years in congregations in the Reformed Church in America. He is the author of several devotional books. A graduate of Hope College and Western Theological Seminary, he has also studied at both the Fuller and Calvin seminaries. Dave and his wife, Betty Jo, have four children and four grandchildren. Dave enjoys reading, growing tomatoes, and avidly follows the Detroit Tigers.

This entry is part 13 of 25 in the series Carols and Lessons