My birthday (and my twin sister’s) is so close to Christmas that, during our growing up years, we hardly celebrated. Because the anticipation of Christmas was so near, we didn’t miss having birthday parties. Perhaps it was best that way. Jesus’ birthday, after all, eclipses all others. This year, again we can joyfully say, “Happy birthday, Jesus!”
ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES By Sally Bair
Happy Birthday, Jesus
When my children were young, one of our family traditions included celebrating Jesus’ birthday with a cake and a “happy birthday” song. The ritual helped them remember that Jesus, after all, is the focus of Christmas.
The word Noel, as in the popular English carol, “The First Noel,” originated from the Latin and means “birthday.” The song reportedly had its beginning in France during the 15th century, and is believed to have been brought across the English Channel by wandering troubadours. It became a favorite Christmas Eve hymn in western England, when entire villages gathered to sing and celebrate the bringing in of the Yule log.
“The First Noel” is one of those songs that should be sung in its entirety to get a clear picture portrayed by the words. The refrain, “Noel, noel! Noel, noel! Born is the King of Israel!” is the equivalent to our singing “happy birthday” to someone. So when we sing this hymn, we’re actually singing, “Happy birthday” to our Savior King.
“The first noel the angel 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.
“They looked 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 rev’rently 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 heav’nly Lord, that hath made heav’n and earth of naught, and with His blood mankind hath bought.”
Lord, we celebrate Your Son’s birthday with joy and thanksgiving. May our joy be reflected on our faces and heard in our glad songs of praise during this holy, Christmas season. In Jesus’ name, amen.