The First Noel
Christmas Playlist • Sermon • Submitted
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December has come upon us. The Christmas spirit has really ramped up or if you are some it started back at the beginning of November. Christmas season is filled with so many things. Laughter, Joy, Sharing. Some of my favorite Christmas memories are not only spending time with family, but also the travels. Singing with Christmas songs on the radio. Your Feliz Navidad, Your Melkalikimaca (going to be honest I had no idea how to spell that) Your dreaming of a white Christmas. Bing Crosby really knew how to sing didn’t he. But we also have your classic Christmas hymns. Go tell it on the mountain, The first Noel, Away in a manger, joy to the world, and O come O come Emmanuel. Music is a staple of the Christmas season. How would we know its getting close to Christmas unless the stores started playing Christmas music in July.
Today we begin a brand-new series called Christmas Playlist. Now, we all probably know what a playlist is. When you are listening to music in the car, while working out, or at work, you can select songs you like to put on a specific playlist. And today, if we had to select songs for an all-time best Christmas songs playlist, chances are, we would probably agree on many of the choices.
But did you know that most of our favorite Christmas songs point to Jesus? While celebrating Christmas, we are remembering the incarnation (coming in human form) of Jesus Christ! Whether you have never heard this story before, or have heard it a thousand times, it’s something we all need to hear and something we all need to be reminded of.
Today, we’re going to start with one of the most well-known Christmas songs of all time: “The First Noel”. Throughout this series, we are not going to unpack the songs themselves. Rather, we are going to learn the biblical meaning and significance of each. Yes, it’s going to be a twist on the traditional Christmas series, but I think it’s one that will be both enjoyable and encouraging for all of us.
But lets look at the first few phrases from that song. The First Noel the Angels did say. Was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay. Know what the song is talking about? What part of Jesus story is this referring to. That one evening when the angels appeared to the shepherd in the field and proclaimed something quite amazing.
Lets look at this together in Luke 2. This is probably the most-read Gospel account during the Christmas season, because Luke’s account gives us some remarkable details about the birth of Jesus. Here, in this part of the story, we learn that the Good News is shared with some simple shepherds…
Read Luke 2:8-15
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
This “good news” the Bible speaks of - what is it? What does it mean for us today? It’s the First Noel…Jesus Christ coming into the world, even as a baby boy, meant God in the flesh had arrived.
I want to tell you a little bit about this Good News today and what it means for our lives.
Let’s look at that word joy. You know Many people tend to have difficulty differentiating happiness from joy. However, it is actually very simple. Happiness is merely external, fleeting, can sometimes only be for pleasure, is only achievable on earth, and can sometimes not necessarily be good.
Joy, on the other hand, is internal, selfless, sacrificial, a spiritual connection with God, and is purely good. We need joy in our lives just as we need the Father and Jesus in our lives. That is why, to be able to attain joy, we must receive Christ, follow Him and His teachings.
Maybe today, so far this morning, you have had a good day. All the kids got dressed for church in time to leave, you haven’t been aggravated by your spouse for any reason, everything has gone as planned. But I hate to break it to you, something will happen today that was not planned. Something will happen that will test your patience. Something will happen that may try to ruin your good mood. It is in those moments that we begin to understand the difference between happiness and joy.
God does not want us to settle for something that comes and goes. Rather, He wants to grant us something that will last for eternity! This, is the promise of Good News! It’s exactly what the angel of the Lord says to these shepherds, who were minding their own business, good news will bring great joy. This is why the Bible says elsewhere that “the joy of the Lord is your strength”.
Read Nehemiah 8:10
Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
When we decide to not only hear the Good News of Jesus Christ’s coming, crucifixion, and resurrection, but hold to it, the joy God gives us through obedience becomes our source of strength. It’s probably why Paul says this in his later writing…
Read 2 Corinthians 12:10
That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
When we accept and believe the Good News of Christ, we are meant to radiate the joy that we are promised, which only comes from the Lord. Would you like some more “good news”? It doesn’t stop here…
The Good News results in praise
Let’s look at what happened after the angels delivered the shepherds the Good News…
Read Luke 2:13-14
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
The Bible says that the angel was joined by “a vast host of others, the armies of heaven”. And what were they doing? Praising God! we must understand that when we come to accept and believe the Good News of Christ, it should lead us into praising God for His magnificent gift.
STORY: There was a time when i was younger where something really hit me. The magnitude of Christs sacrifice really struck me. I can’t remember what grade I was but we were watching the Passion of the Christ. And I know it is a movie, but when it went through the things that Jesus may have went through it really hit me hard. Like I said it is just a movie, but that means what Jesus went through was probably way worse than what this movie could even touch. It was hard for me to look. Seeing the amount of torture that Jesus endured and how the movie depicted it. Wow. The gospel kind of came alive for me. Seeing that movie even though it was actors it just kind of brought the gospel to life for me helped gain perspective and understanding. It really affected the way I think and the way that I do things. I mean it says in scripture that when we go back to a life of sin it is like crucifying Christ all over again. When I want to wander back to a life of sin I think about that movie. Think about how that probably doesn’t even touch what Christ endured and then I think do I really want to do this. Make my savior endure all of that again.
This is just my story. But your story and my story have much in common: we both either came to an understanding of the Gospel or will come to an understanding of the Gospel. Maybe today, you’ve never heard Jesus talked about in this way. You always knew a little bit about His death and resurrection, but not really where it started. The reason this promise of Jesus’s birth is Good News doesn’t just have to do with Luke 2 when it is announced. Instead, we must go back to the Old Testament to fully understand the significance.
Read Isaiah 7:14
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
This promise is made and written in the Book of Isaiah, approximately 700 years before the birth of Jesus in Luke 2. And yet, even then, God was prophesying that one day, He would come in the flesh (more on the word Emmanuel later in the series).
Can you imagine how much praise must have been given to God when the Good News was announced as a reality 700 years after it was prophesied? Finally, this Messiah, God in the flesh, was here to walk with His people. And even now, we as God’s people can participate in this continuous praise for God granting us this gift of Christ. It is an invitation into something more than ourselves. The Good News truly invites us in…
We read about the angels’ response to the Good News, but what about the shepherds in the story? Here’s what the Bible says…
Read Luke 2:15
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
They had the faith to believe that the Lord had indeed spoken to them. And because of this, they could not stay silent, and they could not stay still. They had to go and see for themselves what this amazing promise was.
In fact, today, all these years later, we have a similar invitation on the table for us. Do you believe God has spoken to you today? Do you believe He prophesied about Jesus many years ago? Do you believe Jesus came to this very earth as the Bible says? Do you accept and understand the Good News?
I believe that this Good News invites you and I into something this world could never offer, something eternal and everlasting. Something that will bring great joy to our lives. Something that will grant us the peace that we have been craving. Something that calls us to have faith to believe it to be true.
The Good News, The First Noel, Jesus Christ.
Today, I don’t claim to know everything about your story, your hurts, your goals, and dreams. However, I do know that every person here today, both online and in person, is confronted with the same question at some point in life: “Do you believe and accept this message as Good News?”
The other question is “Does that Good new bring joy and praise to your life.” Does the good news of Jesus coming down to bring salvation bring joy to your heart and does it push out praise. Maybe it has become old news. Something we hear every Christmas time over and over and we just check out. The fire of Jesus bringing salvation has just seemed to die off. It is time to bring back those feelings of joy that the Jesus brings. The story of Jesus and what he did brings. I mean every December we are reminded of not only the great love that God has for us but its also the beginning of our lives really.
There is good news that should be bringing us great joy. Even though he was born 2000 years ago it still affects us today. The angels brought the good news and so it is time for us to praise.