Monday, 7 December 2020

The First Noel

The First Noël | Desiring God

The word, Noel, often catches us by surprise in that it has a variety of different versions of the spelling – Nowell, being one of the popular alternatives. It is a French/Gaelic word that has Latin roots (natalis), which means “birthday.”

The following information about the "The First Noel" comes from a very interesting website This beloved Christmas carol is regarded to be of Cornish origin. It bloomed at a time when the Medieval civilization of Europe was experiencing "Proto-Renaissance," and could be as old as the 14th century. The story told in the song was inspired by the dramatizations of "Miracle Plays," and it tells the story of "Noel" or "Jesus", depicting the night of his birth in Bethlehem.

The structure of the First Noel bears stark resemblance with medieval French poems, which sadly were never recorded. Thankfully, “The First Noel" was first transcribed around 1823, and was later published in "Gilbert and Sandy’s Carols" in 1833.Williams Sandy’s arranged and edited the carol, while Davies Gilbert pitched in with additional lyrics. Gilbert is also credited for the revival of the song in modern times. 

It was only around 1929, that the English version made an appearance in the "The Cornish Songbook." In modern times, "The First Noel" is performed utilizing a 4 part hymn arrangement created by John Stainer.

For me, the part of the song that stands out during this Advent are these lines:

Then entered in those Wise Men three,

Full reverently upon their knee,
And offered there in his presence,
Their gold and myrrh and frankincense:

It begs the question – What am I bringing to the Lord this Christmas? What do I have to offer my King?

Living in Grace


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