The 12 Days Leading to Christmas – Day 6 – “The First Noel”

David Stertz
December 19, 2022

This is day 6 of “The 12 Days Leading to Christmas.”  Each day I am highlighting a Christmas hymn that is worth our listening to as Christians this Christmas season. You can read more about the goal of the series here.

Today I highlight for you “The First Noel.” Right away we should note what the word “Noel” means. When you see the spelling “Noel,” it is French in origin. However, you will also see the spelling “Nowell” which is English in origin. In both cases the word finds its origin in the Latin “natilis” which means “birth.” Over time “Noel/Nowell” was associated in French and English to talk about the birth of all births – the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ.

This is a folk hymn. We do not know exactly who wrote it. There is an historical inaccuracy in the hymn. The second stanza suggests that the shepherds followed the star when it was in fact the wise men. However, despite this inaccuracy, the poem shines beautifully as it loosely tells the Christmas story. The best stanza is the last one (which is not included in our hymnal at Sunrise!). There, we are called to worship the Lord Jesus, not just at his birth, but for His position as Creator and Savior from our sins. 

Here are the lyrics:

The first Noel the angel 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, Noell, 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.

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.

This star drew nigh to the northwest;
o’er Bethlehem it took its rest,
and there it did both stop and stay,
right over the place where Jesus lay.

Then entered in those wise men three,
full reverently upon their knee,
and offered there in his presence
their gold, and myrrh, and frankincense.

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 our life hath bought.

Have a Listen!



Apple Music


Choral Arrangement 


Apple Music