‘The First Noel’ is the oldest Christmas song that to date, has not fallen into oblivion. It is still sung every year on this special occasion, with its  powerful words and melody capable of reviving the joy of the Lord’s coming to save mankind.

Its origin is hard to trace. It is sometimes said to date back to the fifteen century and has been linked with the French, as the word ‘Noel’ stems from French and denotes Latin meaning of ‘birthday.’

It was believed to have found its way into Britain later during the 18th century.

In its early time, it gained popularity as a carol resounding all over the villages when people gathered and carried the Yule log home in celebration of the festive day.

With six stanzas, the song tells the story of the birth of Jesus Christ, yet, with a slight difference to what is said in the Bible.

The carol narrates that the birth of the Lord Jesus was first announced by the angels to the shepherds, who then followed the stars to identify the birthplace of Jesus. 

Meanwhile, the Bible tells that the Lord’s birth was first made known to the three wise men rather than to the shepherds.

Yet, both versions share the same belief  that Christ came to redeem the whole world.

The wise men followed the stars, finding the place where the Christ was born to worship God and offer him gifts. (Public domain)

Five hundred years ago, “The First Noel” was denied to be sung in cathedrals. 

Just like the fate of many other songs, in the sixteenth century, The First Noel was not sung during Christmas. Because of the lack of respect for the missionaries, the songs that were so spiritually imbued in the Bible could not be accepted for singing in most cathedrals.

It was not until  the 1800s, when the Anglican church began to incorporate new songs in rituals, that the song became very popular. In 1833, The First Noel was published by William Sandys and he placed carol in a collection of Christmas songs.

Since then, the carol has become an essential part of family tradition during Christmas time, even though the custom of burning a Yule log has faded out somewhat. 

Its joyous melodies carry with it the cheerfulness in praise of Lord Jesus and the lyrics express deep gratitude from humankind towards Him,  resounding as a reminder of the beginning of the most meaningful event—the birth of Jesus 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,

Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel,

born is the King of Israel

they looked up and saw a star

shining in the east beyond them afar

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

this star true light to the northwest

over Bethlehem it took it’s rest

and there it did stop and stay

right over the place where Jesus lay

noel, noel, noel, noel,

born is the king of Israel

noel, noel, noel, noel,

born is the king of Israel