The first Noel the angels 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.
They lookèd up and saw a star,
Shining in the east beyond them far,
And to the earth it gave great light,
And so it continued both day and night.
And by the light of that same star
Three wise men came from country far;
To seek for a king was their intent,
And to follow the star wherever it went.
This star drew nigh to the northwest;
O’er Bethlehem it took its rest,
And there it did both stop and stay
Right over the place where Jesus lay.
Then entered in those wise men three,
Full reverently upon their knee,
And offered there in His presence
Their gold and myrrh and frankincense.
Then let us all with one accord
Sing praises to our heavenly Lord,
That hath made Heaven and Earth of naught
And with His blood mankind hath bought.
No author bio here! This familiar carol was written by the famous “Anonymous”! The words are believed to have been written in France in the fifteenth century – hence the use of the word “Noel”, French for “Christmas”. About four hundred years later, in 1823, the song was published in a book by Davis Gilbert, titled Some Ancient Christmas Carols. William Sandys, a little-known composer, wrote a melody which was then published in 1833 in his book, Carols Ancient and Modern. This tune was criticised by musicians of the day as being uncharacteristic of folk melody.
The carol lived on, however, and Sir John Stainer polished it somewhat in his arrangement, which was published in 1871. Now we contentedly sing the Christmas story, verse by verse, to Stainer’s work.