Sharing the Light • Devotion #2: “The First Noel”

I wonder how many people sing “The First Noel” because they enjoy the music even though they do not know what “Noel” means. Noël is the French word for Christmas and is from the Latin “natalis” meaning “birthday.”

Lindsay Lowe wrote an interesting article entitled, “The Surprisingly Controversial History of the ‘Happy Birthday’ Song.” In the 1890s, Patty Hill and her sister, Mildred, composed a song that would be simple enough to sing with Patty’s kindergarten students. The original lyrics that accompanied the familiar “Happy Birthday” tune were:

Good morning to you

Good morning to you

Good morning dear teacher,

Good morning to all

Lowe wrote, “Using the same melody, her kindergarten students would sometimes swap in different lyrics, including the ‘Happy Birthday’ lyrics we know today.” It is silly to find that several lawsuits resulted in who would get the copyright and royalties for “Happy Birthday.”

“The First Noel” is basically a “Happy Birthday” to Jesus song. Verses one and two focus on the initial “party” guest:

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!

Verses three through six include the wise men. Even though the writer mistakenly viewed the wise men as only three guests, he does point out that the wise men brought three gifts. I imagine as Joseph and Mary fled to Egypt these gifts helped them adapt and survive.

A tradition I carried from my childhood into having a family of my own is having a birthday cake for Jesus and singing “Happy Birthday” to Him. We share gifts in remembrance of gifts given in the first Noel, but also as a thankfulness of the gift of salvation Jesus bought and brought for us.

This Christmas celebrate Jesus and His birthday!

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