The First Noel

Have you ever read a word a thousand times and never checked what it actually means? Noel was one of those words for me. I saw it in store-fronts and on front lawns, read it on Christmas cards, and sang it in Christmas carols. It popped up every year, but I never pinned it down.

NoelNoel: early 19th century French word meaning “Christmas”; possibly from early Latin natalis, a word that could be translated “birth.”

Oh, that’s what it means!! Noel = Christmas. Noel = birth. I love that deep in its etymology, noel is not just about a date or an event but about beginnings and life itself; birth.

In the past 24 months, 24 million people have viewed the wonderful Pentatonix a capella rendition of The First Noel. All of a sudden, the song leaps out at me with fresh vigor and meaning. “Noel, noel, born is the King of Israel.” It’s a song all about birth and life and hope. “Born, born, born is the King of Israel!”

This coming Monday, the four weeks of Advent conclude with Christmas Day. Four weeks of declaring we desperately need a Savior; four weeks of waiting; four weeks of acknowledging sin and darkness; four weeks of anticipation. And Monday it all bursts forth with the greatest declaration possible. Born is the King. The wait is over. The Kingdom of God is among us.


It’s really a dual declaration. His birth; our birth. We were “helpless and dead in our sin” (Romans 5:6; 12) , “without hope and without God in this world” (Ephesians 2:12), but the birth of Christ changes everything.

We typically wait until New Year’s Day to make resolutions, to start new habits, and to seek a fresh start. But it often gets tied purely to our own will-power, determination, and effort. Perhaps that’s why so much of it fails. But Christmas (Noel) invites us to new birth, because of the one birth that changed the world.

The babe of Bethlehem assures, enables, and empowers our own re-birth … over and over. That’s something to celebrate. Noel. 

On a personal note: THANKS to each of you who have so graciously received these posts throughout the year. It has been a pleasure and a privilege to continue this Journey of faith with you. BLESSINGS THIS CHRISTMAS! May the grace of our Lord sustain you and renew you, as we quickly head towards 2018.

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20 Responses to The First Noel

  1. Dan Gonzaga says:

    Likewise to you and Kim! Thanks for gift of your thoughts and words from Him!

  2. David Stanford says:

    Hi David
    Thanks for this one. Have a fantastic Christmas in the US of A.
    Bless you heaps

    David Stanford
    Associate Minister

  3. Tim Lentz says:

    Thanks, Dr. Timms! Merry Christmas to you, Kim, and the kids!!!

  4. Maxine Croot says:

    Dear David and Kim
    My apologies, I’ve missed the Christmas mail, but wanted to send you our best wishes and prayers for a wonderful Christmas and blessings throughout the New Year.
    We enjoy reading your “Grace” thoughts, thankyou David.
    With our love
    from Maxine & Gary
    West Australia

  5. Dick and Doris says:

    Thank You David… I pray that you have a wonder filled Christmas season and that your efforts to reach and encourage people will multiply many times in 2018… In debt to you… richard…

  6. Heide Costa says:

    Merry CHRISTmas David! And thank You so very much for your posts. 🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼🎚🎚🎚

  7. Jana says:

    It is always a treat to receive your teachings about Christ. Merry Christmas!

  8. markskrause says:

    Thanks, David. Sometimes we need to keep it simple. Christmas is about the birth of a special baby.

  9. Jan Neff says:

    Oh, whew!! When I started to read that last paragraph I thot perhaps you weren’t going to write anymore, maybe move on to something else. Glad I was wrong.
    I left Florida for 10 days in Rhode Island that turned into a few more days as our son and wife welcomed baby #2, who decided to come about a week later than planned. So we have a new grandchild to celebrate this season as we humbly celebrate the greatest birth of all. Makes me appreciate all the more what Jesus chose, coming as a babe. Can you just even imagine?! Noel, Jesus is born! I’m asking God to help me comprehend that a little deeper and more this season. Blessings to you and your family.

  10. Jerry Heetland says:

    A thousand thank yous for the years long messages of faith and hope. It is always a pleasure to read and study them. Thanks for defining :Noel” for us and giving new meaning to this oft used little word. While I didn’t (with some regret) finish the masters course at Hope, I lesrned so much from you and others in the classes I did complete. Faith and understanding are stronger because of Survery of the Bible” which taught me to read and study the whole bible and not just focus so much on the New Testament. Thank you for your guidance in my first masters course.

    • David Timms says:

      Jerry, what a delight it is for me that we still have this connection! Thanks for your note, and your “long obedience in the same direction.” Your faith and faithfulness is an encouragement and inspiration. Blessings this Christmas.

  11. John Alley says:

    Thank you David. I look forward to reading your insights into scripture. Keep up the good work. You are a blessing to so many.

  12. E Tse says:

    Hi, David- Thanks so much for this post. I thought “Noel” meant news but etymology makes sense 🙂 All the richer! I enjoyed the Pentatonix version, too. I was listening to a Pray As You Go podcast last week and was a bit puzzled when they mentioned the penitentiary nature of Advent as I associate that more with Lent. Your phrases below helped me see that I was focused primarily on waiting and anticipating. Of course, my need of a Savior is a no-brainer…lol. I recognized Ps 42 in a previous post and have been enjoying Matt and Sam’s Jesse Tree book. Yesterday the Spirit met a need to speak hope into my life through Matt’s devotional. Family gathering at the holidays served as a trigger. Have been learning who they really are since Nate’s death. I’ve passed along a couple to Shannon: the one from last Thursday about God’s scales now and ever being tipped toward grace and the one on Jonah how Father still goes to extreme lengths to save. So lovely! She has great faith and is going through a terrible legal battle concerning her daughter. The judge took away full custody to award it now to the dad who is/has been abusing her on multiple fronts. Daughter’s name is Armorel (think hyphen before the “e”). My connection group prays for them daily. Shannon needs a new attorney as hers is now on bed rest related to pregnancy. She also needs a new place to live in six weeks as her landlord will live in the house Shannon’s been renting when renovating the primary residence. Father’ll surely make a way! One of the most endearing things about the book are the prayers, particularly how Matt descriptively addresses Father each day. The Trinitarian close blesses me, too. Would you let him know for me? Thanks. Advent Blessings!–Eleanor 🙂

    Sent from Yahoo Mail on Android

    • David Timms says:

      Eleanor, good to hear from you, and I passed your comments along to Matt. Much appreciated! His prayers touch me, too. May the Presence and grace of Christ give you and William peace and joy in this season.

  13. Kenneth Wadum says:

    Thanks for sharing this these writings with us David. They are extremely helpful. Ken

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