Noel is a word you really only hear at Christmas time. I grew up singing The First Noel. Yesterday I found myself wondering about the word Noel. So of course just to be sure of the meaning, I looked it up. In French “Joyeaux Noel” means Merry Christmas so Noel is the French word for Christmas. But the word also means news and it also means birth.
When you are singing The First Noel, you could be saying this is the first news or the most important news. It could also mean this is the first birth or rather the first miraculous birth of its’ kind. This could also mean The First Christmas! All of those are true. If you think on the lyrics to the First Noel it is telling the story of the birth of Jesus. It follows the shepherds and them following the star to Bethlehem and the Wise Men also following the star. And ends with praises to our heavenly Lord. And isn’t that what Christmas is all about? I don’t know about you but I can learn the lyrics of a song so well that I truly don’t even hear it anymore sometime. I can sing along and not think of one thing I am singing. I want to be more intentional than that, especially this time of year when I am singing about the birth of my Savior. I want to hear and know what the words mean that I am singing and speaking all year through, but especially at Christmas time. You may be smarter than I and have known all of these things about the word Noel but even if you knew already the meaning of the word please be sure not to miss the meaning of the song. When you sing the words of these songs, think on them, let them sink deep into your soul so that you don’t miss the meaning of them. I know I have been guilty of getting so caught up in the hustle and the bustle and the decorating and the singing that when Christmas was over I wondered if I had missed it. I am trying not to miss it this year. I want to sing about The First Noel, the miraculous birth of the Savior of the world, the good news!
“‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’ (which means God with us).” Matthew 1:23
I love Christmas trees! I have 2 this year that I can see from my chair that I sit in the most inside my home! One inside and I have one on my front porch too. The one inside has white lights and the one outside has colored lights along with a Grinch who is trying to steal it away from us. Just a touch of added whimsy to the Christmas for the grands to see when they come. My tree would never win any awards for decor. It is mostly filled with memories and traditions. But I love pulling it out just the same.
I wondered how the tradition of Christmas trees got started so I did a little research. The evolution of how we got to the Christmas trees of today was pretty interesting. It seems that in the 8th century in Germany there were pagan rituals taking place in front of some oak trees. A Benedictine monk named Boniface took an axe and chopped down the mighty oak tree to try to stop the pagans from worshiping a false idol. Legend has it that a fir tree grew out of the fallen oak and that became a symbol of Christ to them. The tree being triangular in shape, it represented the trinity. Then in Germany in the 16th and 17th century the Germans being to bring trees into their homes and decorating them. Martin Luther is credited for putting the first lights on the tree as he was walking home one evening and he loved the stars twinkling through the trees. He put candles on the tree in order to emulate the twinkling lights of the tree on a starlit night. Then in the late 1840s, Queen Victoria and her German husband, Prince Albert popularized the Christmas tree when a drawing was made of them and published in the London News of their family around a decorated tree. And a tradition was born. A couple of years later the same image was published in America and the soon decorating a Christmas tree became what it is today.
To me though, while all of those stories and legends are interesting the things that putting up a tree represent to me are the traditions, and memories and just setting apart the season. At this stage of my life I think of the times our family decorated the tree when my boys were young and now it is one of my favorite things to do at the start of the season when my kids are in town to decorate the tree with my kids and my grands! I never have a Christmas season that I don’t remember the year my Daddy surprised me when he brought home a real Christmas tree. I was a senior in high school and we had had an artificial tree for years and he knew I wanted a real tree so one day when he was out cut one down and brought it home. That tree looked just like one Charlie Brown would have cut down and brought home but to me it was the most beautiful tree I had ever seen because my Daddy did it for me. I love a beautifully decorated tree but also love the traditions and the memories and the twinkling lights of the tree in my home. I love the way the tree and the decorations set apart this season from the rest of the year.
As we look at the Christmas Trees think on the trinity, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, three in one, that is the foundation of our faith. Think on the twinkling lights and let them remind you of the stars that would have shown brightly on a Holy night when a young mother gave birth to the Savior of the world in a dark and dirty stable. Think on the ways that decorating our homes for Christmas sets apart this season and let it remind you to set apart your heart for Him. And then think of the way that we can carry what’s born in your heart to a lost and hurting world for Him.
“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16
Joy to the World, the Lord has come! Have you ever been able to sing that Christmas Carol without having a little Joy just spilling over into your heart? I know I haven’t. Joy, this is what the world needs a little more of, especially this year, RIGHT? What does the Joy of Christmas mean to you? To me it means focusing on the one who brings us Joy. In John 15 Jesus says to us:
“These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you and that your joy may be full.” John 15:11
What are the things Jesus was speaking to us?
“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” John 15:9-10
Jesus is telling us to have His Joy complete in us we must be abiding in Him. We have to focus on Him. What better time of the year than Christmas to be sure that your heart abides in Him. Abiding means keeping His commandments and spending time with Him. Webster defines abide as:
1. to remain stable or fixed in a state. 2 to continue in a place.
Abiding with Him is remaining stable with Him, keep your eyes and your heart fixed on Jesus and Jesus is telling us that is when our Joy will be full. I pray that as we focus our hearts and our minds on Him this Christmas season that we feel His Joy complete deep down in our hearts and that it is to the overflowing. I made the comment to my son the other day that this was a really hard Christmas because I had been sick, I haven’t been able to do the things I normally do. He said “Mom I think everybody in the world could say that this year.” This has been quite a different year. I miss concerts and Christmas programs and plays and just being able to walk into the store without a mask on. But one thing this pandemic and 2020 cannot take from me, is the Joy that is deep in my heart from spending time with Jesus. I pray that you will let your heart prepare Him room today so that no matter what your circumstances of 2020 are you too can sing.
Joy to the World the Lord has come! Let earth receive her King!
When I think of the peace of Christmas. I think of choirs singing Silent Night. I think of sitting in my living room late at night looking at the twinkling lights of a Christmas tree. I think of riding through the neighborhood and looking at the Christmas decorations in the yard and I think of a baby lying in a manger late at night on that first Christmas.
But really do you think Mary was thinking how peaceful the night was? They were in a stable with smelly animals and she had to wrap her baby up in cloths that were probably barely clean much less sterilized. She laid her little baby down in a manger, a place that animals ate food out of. I’m sure she put the hay in there to make it a softer place for him to lay. I’m sure she swaddled him and sang him a lullaby to put him to sleep. And I’m sure there was something inside of her that had to be scared deep down in her soul. Mary was just a child herself and she had just given birth to the Savior of the world. And I’m sure she didn’t quite understand yet what that would mean. Do you think she felt peace? I hope she did on that night when the star shone so bright in the night sky and on a hill angels were announcing His birth to some shepherds. I hope that deep in Mary’s heart while the young girl was uncertain and possibly scared, I hope and I just can’t help but think, there was also peace in her heart as well. You see, when Jesus is present is when there is peace no matter what. And while he was just an infant, He was still Jesus! He always was, always is and always will be.
I pray that no matter what your circumstances are right now, that you will call on the name of Jesus to be your peace for Christmas and every day! In the midst of hard things and hard years Jesus is the only thing that can bring us PEACE! He brought us peace on that Silent Holy night so long ago, so that He could live in our hearts and we could know His peace. Peace even when things are hard, when there is a diagnosis that breaks our hearts, when loved ones are dying, when there are more days in the month than money, and when life and pandemics are present, because of Jesus we can still have peace that passes all understanding. Thats what makes the night Holy. Call on His name for your Peace. Like the angels said, it’s what He came for!
“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” Luke 2:14