What is the Meaning of The First Noel?

Chances are you’ve probably sung the classic Christmas hymn, The First Noel. But have you stopped to ponder the meaning of the word, noel?

The first Noel the angel did say

was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay;

 in the field 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.

Christmas hymns are my absolute favorite. Move over Mariah Carey; all I want for Christmas is Carrie Underwood singing, “Oh Holy Night.” Not only do these sacred hymns remind us of the true meaning of Christmas, but they are also packed with excellent theology. 


The First Noel is one of my favorites. It describes the story from Luke 2, which explains how the Bethlehem shepherds, the first to hear of the Savior’s birth from an angelic messenger, were also the first to declare the glorious news to the world.

Recently, I was singing The First Noel and was stopped in my tracks as I puzzled, “What is the meaning of Noel?” Friends, I love writing and reading words, but I especially love studying the origin and history of language.

For this reason, I began researching the historical roots of the word Noel. Noel is the French word for Christmas. I knew that, but that didn’t help me understand why the Shepherd’s declared Noel. So, I kept digging. 

I soon discovered that Noel is a linguistic puzzle. Originally in French, it meant “news.” But it finds its origins in the Latin word for “birth.” Centuries later, it would mean “shouts of joy” in English. Pulling the threads of this puzzle together, I learned that Noel is a joyous declaration to the world, saying, “A Child is Born, and now all is well!” Let’s say that agian. 

Noel … Now, All is Well.

For a world crippled by the weight of sin… Now, All is Well

For the soul hungry for the love of God… Now, All is Well

For the heart weighed down by guilt and shame… Now, All is Well

As you sing The First Noel this Christmas season, let the familiar carol remind your heart that because of Jesus, Now, All is Well. 

Watch the entire teaching on The Meaning of The First Noel on YouTube.

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