Christmas songs explained - The First Noel
The first Noel
The angels did say
Was to certain poor shepherds in
Fields as they lay
In fields were they lay
Keeping their sheep
On a cold winter's night that was so deep.
"Noel", is the the time of Christmas from December 24th to January 6th. When the angels "certained" the shepherds, they were assuring them. "Keeping sheep" just meant tending to their flock, not keeping them as in making sure they were hanging on to them.
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel
Born is the King of Israel
These words were written hundreds of years before the modern country of Israel was established. The Israel referred to here is group of people descended from Isreal, also called Jacob, the Jews. The King of the Jews is, of course, Jesus Christ.
They looked up and saw a star
Shining in the east
Beyond them far
In the second verse, you have to sing "look-ed" as two syllables, the way it was in the 18th century, to make the rhythm work.
Here is an amazing four-part harmony version, all done by the same man. Note that he got the "looked" correct.
And to the earth it gave great light
And so it continued both day and night
Noel, Noel, born is the King of Israel!
Posted by Brad Hall