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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.
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel
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.
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel
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.
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel
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 Pause and stay
Right o’er the place where Jesus lay.
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel
Born is the King of Israel!

Then entered in those Wise men three
Full reverently upon their knee
And offered there in His presence
Their gold and myrrh and frankincense.
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel
Born is the King of Israel!

Then let us all with one accord
Sing praises to our heavenly Lord
That hath made Heaven and earth of nought
And with his blood mankind has bought.
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel
Born is the King of Israel!

IMG_2556I remember singing The First Noel every Christmas Eve as part of our church’s annual evening service. It was one of my favorites. Like most hymns, I loved it for its melody more than its meaning. This particular carol, however, had me at “Noel.”

No – el, No – el,
No – el, No – el!

The word was—and still is–beautiful to me. I had no idea what it meant, but I loved the way it formed and flowed from some unknown place within my soul. I would pull deep from my lungs, trying to remember all I had learned in music class, and sing out that word with all the elegance I felt it deserved. I am sure it sounded a little more like noise and less like the opera voice I was trying to impersonate, but all I cared about was hearing that word worshipped out, echoing into the sacred spaces of my church’s sanctuary:

No – el, No – el!

********

What is it about a beautiful word set in chorus that can leave us breathless and centered in the moment? My mind rarely takes a break from scheduling, planning, worrying, griping, replaying my last bad parenting move, or imagining my next one. But when I hear a word well-spoken—well-sung–I am stilled, like calm between the gusts on a windy day. And if the calm can just last long enough, the word becomes planted within me; my roots grow deeper, allowing the chaff of my thoughts to blow away with the next gust.

While searching for the meaning of the word, Noel, I discovered disagreement. One online dictionary said simply it was another greeting for Christmas (seems like the cheap way out to me). Most sites say Noel comes from the Latin, natalis, meaning birthday. One, at least, admitted the disagreement, saying some believe it comes from natalis, though others believe it comes from the French, nouvelles, which means news, or in this case, good news.

I’m not scholarly enough to add my opinion to the argument, but considering the way Noel is used in the song, I think it is safe to say the word has a Rejoice!  theme at its core.

The first noel the angels did say
Was to certain poor shepherds
In fields as they lay….

It is the proclamation song on the lips of the angels to tired shepherds, keeping their sheep.

No – el, No – el,
No – el, No – el!
Born is the King of Israel!

I wonder if the rejoicing words went deep into their souls as well? It must have because the they went straightway to see the thing which the Lord had made known to them.

Isn’t that what a well-spoken word should do? Jolt us from our self-important worlds; inspire us to move towards a true center where we can be securely moored?  I guess it depends  on us recognizing the source, and–like the shepherds–allowing ourselves to be moved by it.

No – el, No – el,
No – el, No – el!
3rd week--Rejoice!

3rd week–Rejoice!

I don’t just want to enjoy the Christmas season. I need to Rejoice! through the Christmas season; especially as preparations have taken a fevered pitch these last many days. Over and again, as I have prayed for the heart of His Word to be evident in my blogging this month, I have been reminded that the best way I can prepare for  Christmas is to rejoice from the deep places of my soul. I want to become like the shepherds, who heard the Noel message and allowed this word well-spoken—well-sung–to rise up within them, change them, cause them to Rejoice!; and move them toward the center of God’s heart for humanity—forever and ever, Amen.

No – el, No – el,

No – el, No – el!
Born is the King of Israel!
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