Hear Comes Christmas — Episode III — The First Noel
A quick read online and you will learn that The First Noel is an old English carol dating back to “the 16th or 17th century, but possibly dating from as early as the 13th Century.”
It is a simple melody with lyrics that succinctly tell how shepherds in the cold winter’s night looked up and found the glorious star above. This star wasn’t ordinary by any means but was bright both day and night. The lyrics describe how the celestial wonder moved in the sky until it set over the spot where baby Jesus lay. As we know, Jesus’s birth was the coming of our liberator, freeing us from our sin and lack of hope.
I can’t help connecting the star in the nativity story to the north star (and drinking gourd constellation) runaway slaves used as a guide on the Underground Railroad. Both the slaves and the shepherds were significantly disadvantaged and despised, yet both found their liberation from bondage by following a star.
After listening to a number of renditions of this song I keep returning to the A cappella approach by Americana legend, Emmylou Harris. To be honest I stop in my tracks anytime I hear Emmylou sing and the streak doesn’t stop with this track where I feel she aptly taps into the shock and awe those shepherds must have felt.
While we may not be slaves searching for freedom or poor and lowly shepherds following miracle in the sky, may we find a sense of wonder and hopefulness both experienced as they looked up into the night sky.