The title of the hymn is “The First Noel.” We sing it every year at Christmastime, but I suspect that not many of us know what a Noel is. Noel is a French word that come from the Latin word natalis, which means “birth.” So “The First Noel” is a song about the birth of Jesus. It is an English carol that was sung by the village people as they brought in the Yule log on Christmas Eve each year. They would burn the Yule log to symbolize the triumph of light over darkness — a really happy thought in a place like England where the winter days are so short and the winter nights so long.
NOTE TO THE PREACHER: When the village gathered to sing carols of this sort, very often they would have a chorus sing the verses, which not everyone would know, and then the whole village would join in singing the chorus. Mention that custom and honor it by having your choir sing the verses and the congregation join in singing the chorus. Be sure to notify your choir director in advance so the choir can rehearse the song.
— Copyright 2006, Richard Niell Donovan