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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The First Noel

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"The First Noel"

"And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night" (Luke 2:8).

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, Noel, Noel, Noel
Born is the King of Israel.

No L buttonLast Saturday night we attended a Christmas Banquet and I noticed one of the musicians providing entertainment was wearing a button. From a distance it looked like one of those protest buttons and I thought it rather tacky to wear such a button on a festive occasion. After the concert I went up to meet him and get a better look. Then I saw more clearly the button to the left. It didn't take me very long to get the message! Hopefully you do as well (keep in mind the featured hymn carol today.)

The word Noel comes from the French word NoŽl meaning "Christmas", from the Latin word natalis "birthday".  Some older hymnals spell it Nowell.

The original version of The First Noel dates back to at least the 17th century. In 1823, William B. Sandys (1792-1874), and Davies Gilbert (1767-1839) edited and added lyrics to create the version we sing today. The origin of the current melody is uncertain. Some historians think that the traditional melody originated in France as early as the 1200s.

It is an English carol that was sung by the village people as they brought in the Yule log on Christmas Eve each year. They would burn the Yule log to symbolize the triumph of light over darkness -- a really happy thought in a place like England where the winter days are so short and the winter nights so long. When the village gathered to sing carols of this sort, very often they would have a choral group sing the verses, which not everyone would know, and then the whole village would join in singing the chorus.

Praise God for this marvelous angelic message of good tidings of great joy that is at the very heart of the Christmas message. The very first recipients of the message were "shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night." These fearful and startled shepherds were unlikely recipients of the most remarkable birth announcement of all time, thus the phrase "The First Noel".

Although the message was to the shepherds I'm especially encouraged by the phrase "which shall be to all people".  That includes you and me!

Have you ever been in a setting and you're not quite sure you belong there?  Have you ever heard a great offer and you're not quite sure it's for you? Well, in the birth announcement the angel of the Lord makes it very clear the extent of this offer. The angel went on to declare the inclusion of the lowly shepherds, "For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:11). The greatest birth provided the greatest gift to meet our greatest need.

What are you dealing with today? What's troubling you? I am glad to remind you that the One who met your greatest need is interested in everyone of your needs, big and small. He cares about your sick spouse, that wayward child, a persnickety boss. And I especially consider the lonely, some due to the recent death of a loved one. Today let's turn in faith to Christ and, even in the midst of our burdens, remember the following important truth. The God who has taken care of our greatest need will also take care of all the other ones!

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 mankind has bought.
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel,
Born is the King of Israel.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, we thank You for Your Son Jesus, who, by His coming to earth and dying on the cross, made it possible for us to be saved for all eternity. He came for the lowly shepherd on the hillside, the king who sits on the throne, the influential, the lesser known, and the unknown - all can be saved because of Your provision through Jesus. We are grateful for the birth of Jesus and with gladsome tidings we celebrate His birthday. Amen.

We received an interesting email from a reader in southeast Asia inquiring about genuine Christians in America.  I wrote him and told him that the genuinely born-again Christians are all over our country and around the world. Most are little known but are faithful to Christ in their own churches. He replied, "Yes, I would really like to get to know some genuinely born again American/Canadian Christians although they are little known but are faithful to Christ in their church (as you said), even meek, humble, gentle and submissive, like a lamb of God bearing the cross of Christ. Not only genuinely born again, but also have experienced renewal in their mind and transformation in their life/character. So if I read your daily encouragement messages in which you often write about the local Christians who are not well-known, may I write to them and get to know them?"

Today's Suggested Music
and Supplemental Resources

"The First Noel"  Video  
Kari Jobe

In Monday's message titled "When Hate Is Strong" we addressed the horrific slayings in Connecticut this last Friday and provided several links to articles with a Christian perspective. Here's another thoughtful blog post by Trevin Wax titled "Are We A Violent People?"

Resources for Christmas Celebrations
(We will leave these resources posted below our daily messages through Christmas)

Each year we share several online resources that we have used over the years and that may be a blessing to families and churches during this Christmas season.

"In Remembrance of Me" pdf  This is a passion-filled Scripture reading for two adults. Brooksyne and I have used this reading with great receptivity during Christmas Eve services many years.  We suggest, if possible, a musical background as the message is read. It is also a great lead-in to a Communion service. It should be thoroughly practiced and read with great feeling.

"When Christ Was Born" pdf This is an adaptation to the tune of "How Great Thou Art". It's a great song to sing as a congregation since most are familiar with and love the tune.

Responsive Christmas Scripture readings for church or family:
John 1:1-18  pdf
"O Come Let Us Adore Him"  pdf

My First Christmas In Heaven  This is a blessed reminder for all who lost a loved one this year.  This is the poem that Brooksyne read and wrote about in this message.  

Christmas Knowledge Test

We have also posted two Christmas carol quizzes here (scroll down).

a message to Stephen & Brooksyne

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLEģ, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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