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.
Noel: 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.