Christmas carols, what does *that* mean? #3: Noël

I’m doing a short series on unknown lyrics in Christmas songs and hymns. I wrote about “bells on bob tails ring” from Jingle Bells, and then “We three kings of Orient are…” and focused on the Orient mentioned in the song.

Someone asked me recently when I mentioned I’m doing this series, what does “Noel” mean. The song “The First Noel” is explained from Wikipedia:

[It] is a traditional classical English Christmas carol, most likely from the early modern period, although possibly earlier. Noel is an Early Modern English synonym of “Christmas”.

The First Noel is of Cornish origin. Its current form was first published in Carols Ancient and Modern (1823) and Gilbert and Sandys Carols (1833).

The Annunciation to the shepherds and the Adoration of the shepherds are episodes in the Nativity of Jesus described in the second chapter of the Gospel of Luke (Luke 2). The Star of Bethlehem appears in the story of the Magi (the Wise Men) in the Gospel of Matthew; it does not appear in the story of the shepherds.

The song seems to go even earlier than that, as titled The First Nowell, here explained,

Words & Music: Traditional English carol of the 16th or 17th century, but possibly dating from as early as the 13th Century. This combination of tune and lyrics first appeared in the early 1800s.

This interesting and deeper history of carols in general and The First Noel in particular, is explained here at History of Hymns published by a UMC site:

The second question is, “What does ‘noel’ mean?” “Nowell,” the English transliteration, comes from the old French “nouel,” which is now written in modern French as “noël.” The derivation of this word probably comes from the earlier Latin term “natalis,” relating to a birth.

I had this misconception too, that noel was from the French. So I’m glad my friend asked me:

The First Noel is unknown in origin but is generally thought to be English dating back to the sixteenth century. There is a misconception that the First Noel was French and it is believed that this is because of the French spelling of Noel as opposed to the olde English Anglo-Saxon spelling of the word as in Nowell. After England was captured by the Normans numerous words were adopted from the Norman French language and Noel was re-spelt as Nowell, early printed versions of this carol use the Nowell spelling. The First Noel was first published in 1833 when it appeared in “Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern,” a collection of seasonal carols gathered by William B. Sandys.

Here is a rendition of The First Noel that I like. Hope you do too… Thanks for reading!


A good (birth)day

It is cold here in north Georgia this morning but the day is bright and it’s filled with nice scenes of yards with Christmas lights and upcoming Christmas break at home for two weeks. So all is well.

Here is my yard. The neighbors on the other side of the house put up the outside decorations. I put the brightest light I had in the front window, it shows to the street.

This morning I’m cooking my weekly things. On the menu this week will be

Vegetable soup with rice
Green bean and tofu salad
Quinoa salad
Roasted orange peppers
Roasted broccoli
Crock pot baked potatoes

Putting washed potatoes in the crock pot with a little water and opening the thing two hours later is the easiest way I’ve ever found to get a bunch of potatoes done. They come out soooo soft! I store them in the fridge all week and use them in soup or home fries or just cold as a snack.

I’m listening to RC Sproul’s RefNet music and sermons. He died this week. I have taken two classes from him at Ligonier Connect online. The Recovering the Beauty of the Arts and Knowing Scripture. I’ve also read a few of his books, and I have more on Kindle waiting for me to read them. Of course I love, which blesses me very time I turn to the channel online. I think that is my favorite contribution to the faith that Sproul made. Though I’ve engaged with him in the virtual world, he hasn’t had a huge effect on me, I didn’t think. But his passing the other day brought more sadness to my heart than I thought would be there. He was a good warrior of the faith and he taught many people about God and His holiness. He was a stalwart friend to fellow theologians. For that I thank him. He is glorified now and with the Lord. Amen that Jesus gave us a future!

We have two and a half more days of school. It’s kind of good we have these orphaned days. We have time to do some fun things without interrupting the academics. There fun things coming up are a school-wide pajama day, school movie, classroom Christmas party, an awards assembly…and of course enjoying the kids’ excitement for Christmas and the shenanigans of the Elf on the Shelf.

We get two weeks off. I plan to cook, read, nap, and study. Nothing too different, than always, lol. I bought a book on living by the wisdom of Ecclesiastes, The Gospel According to Jesus (finish the last chapters), a book on Winston Churchill a lovely young friend gave me, and a book called, Main-Travelled Roads, a collection of short stories by the American author Hamlin Garland. First published in 1891 it recounts agrarian life in the upper midwest at that time.

I also plan to catch up on the past lesson of MacArthur’s Biblical Doctrine I’m going through with a Facebook Group that I haven’t done yet. Of course church and family group and Bible Discussion group will be great too.

If things work out I will go around and take photos of our lovely county. The kitties will get some snuggles, too. It’s a quiet life, but I’ve had enough adventure, travel, and excitement to last a lifetime. I ready for quiet, relaxing, and private.

I am pleased to see that the cardinals, which disappeared from my yard a couple of years ago, are back. Yay. There is a bird tweeting heartily now, outside my window. How pleasurable!

I used to listen to this song a lot before I was saved. I thought it was sweet and relaxing. Simple and kind. I did used to wonder how a person could not worry about every little thing, and if every little thing could really be all right. After salvation I know the answer. Jesus takes care of us, and no matter the circumstances, harsh or gentle, cold or warm, high or low, every little thing WILL be all right.

Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?
Matthew 6:26

Have a good weekend and week ahead everyone.


Christmas Carols: What does that mean? #2- We three kings from…the Orient?

I was always confused by the line in the Christmas song We Three Kings which said they were from the Orient.

We three kings of Orient are;
Bearing gifts we traverse afar,
Field and fountain, moor and mountain,
Following yonder star

O star of wonder, star of night,
Star with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy perfect light.

The Christmas carol was written by John Henry Hopkins, Jr. in 1857. We truly do not know how many kings visited Jesus in His nativity nor for certain what country of origin from which they traveled. Traditions says Persia.

However since the scripture in Matthew 2:1 says they traveled from the east, then since the east in that time up to now has been called the Orient, then, the Orient it is.

I’d always thought the Orient meant Japan, China, Taiwan, Korea, etc. Isn’t that the Orient? Is Persia, Syria, or even India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan the orient? Yes, and no. According to Wikipedia,

The Orient is the East, traditionally comprising anything that belongs to the Eastern world, in relation to Europe.

The term “Orient” derives from the Latin word oriens meaning “east”. … Also, many ancient temples, including pagan temples and the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, were built with their main entrances facing the East. This tradition was carried on in Christian churches. To situate them in such a manner was to “orient” them in the proper direction. When something was facing the correct direction, it was said to be in the proper orientation. (Source)

The Easton Bible Dictionary defines biblical use of east,

The orient (mizrah); the rising of the sun. Thus “the east country” is the country lying to the east of Syria, the Elymais (Zechariah 8:7).

(2). Properly what is in front of one, or a country that is before or in front of another; the rendering of the word kedem . In pointing out the quarters, a Hebrew always looked with his face toward the east. The word kedem is used when the four quarters of the world are described (Genesis 13:14 ; 28:14); and mizrah when the east only is distinguished from the west ( Joshua 11:3 ; Psalms 50:1 ; 103:12 , etc.). In Genesis 25:6 “eastward” is literally “unto the land of kedem;” i.e., the lands lying east of Palestine, namely, Arabia, Mesopotamia, etc.

Whether you are from the Orient or the Occident, we celebrate the Savior’s birth who threw away our sins as far as the east is from the west. (Psalm 103:12).

Christmas Carols: What does that mean? #1, Bells on bobtails ring

I love Christmas carols, hymns, and songs. Many of them were written a long time ago. I find myself singing lyrics I have no idea what they mean. So I decided to do a series on those lyrics that reference things that are firmly in the past, gone by, or just something we don’t know anymore!

Let’s start with Jingle Bells. It has a lot of stanzas but we all sing just the first one and the refrain.

Dashing through the snow
In a one-horse open sleigh
O’er the fields we go
Laughing all the way
Bells on bobtails ring
Making spirits bright
What fun it is to ride and sing
A sleighing song tonight

Jingle bells, jingle bells
Jingle all the way
Oh what fun it is to ride
In a one-horse open sleigh, hey
Jingle bells, jingle bells
Jingle all the way
Oh what fun it is to ride
In a one-horse open sleigh

This is a one horse open sleigh. I’m in it on the right. It was small, tippy, bumpy, and cold! It made me grateful for my enclosed car with heat and springs.

sleigh ride copy

The bells that jingled were the old fashioned alarm system. In places where the commute was by sleigh, there was usually a lot of snow. The snowbanks get to be piled high and restrict line of sight. To prevent sleigh collisions, the bells were placed on the horses to alert pedestrians and other sleighs in the vicinity.

But what are bells on bobtails?

It was the style back along to bob a horse’s tail either to tie it back so it looks shorter, or to actually bob (or cut) the tail. Shorter hair on the tail helped keep it from waving in the driver’s face. The bells on bobtails ring are the bells on bobtail horses ringing.

So that’s that! Stay tuned for the next “What does THAT mean?”

Winter Weather Outside but Cozy Conditions Inside

The weather outside is the worst kind, a near-freezing rain, cold, and blustery. But inside, there’s Lavender honey tea in a federal Shape Syracuse China cup, and two homemade butter cookies on a Duchess patterned Tuscan bone china plate, twinkling lights, and cozy clothes! Frightful out, Delightful in!

There is actually some serious weather going on in other parts of Georgia and also elsewhere in the south. Accumulating snow is happening in areas that very rarely gets it.

The neighboring county, Oconee County GA Sheriff’s Department, put up one of their typically funny posts on Facebook yesterday in advance of the snow. It’s snowing lightly in a few fringe areas of our county now, and friends are putting up pretty photos of their tots outside enjoying the strange white stuff from the sky. Most people around here though, just go bananas. Read the Sheriff’s Department post-

Those guys are hilarious.

School the week before the week before Christmas break is crazy. The kids are wild for the Elf on the Shelf, and come into the classroom each day looking for where he might have moved overnight. They really believe the elf is real. One girl told me that her elf at home hasn’t shown up yet. Then she innocently said, “Has your elf come to your house yet?” Awww, what’s a grownup to say in reply? I said that Santa told me there was a shortage of elves and I said “my” elf could go on to a child’s house to watch over a child somewhere. I think she was satisfied with that.

Add to the Christmas excitement, the fact that Georgia was supposed to get some snow today, and the kids were on tenterhooks looking out the window every second. Snow in GA to a kid is as magical as if a unicorn came flying down and delivered a pot of candy to the classroom.

I’m now home and snug inside with my Christmas lights on, knowing I am not moving anywhere until Sunday afternoon!

I plan to have breakfast for dinner, then start reading a book. I don’t know which one. There are so many to choose from.

This storm is supposed to cut a wide swathe up and down the coast, so stay safe everyone, and enjoy the winter weather. It’ll be here a while, might as well!

It’s all about the paper products

Amazon gift certificates are the best! A kind reader sent me a gift certificate last night and I used it immediately, lol.

I ordered the book Living Life Backward: How Ecclesiastes Teaches Us to Live in Light of the End by David Gibson. Yay! Twitter graphic tweeted by Matt Smethurst, lol-


I use a small, leather blank journal with thick handmade paper for notes during sermons and small group Bible study. I love it because it’s small and therefore portable. The paper is thick and stands up to painting on or collaging, which I occasionally do in order to illustrate a thought or insight I’d had. The paper feels good to the touch, also important. The clasp is metal and medieval looking which is a style I enjoy. I’m almost to the end of this notebook so it’s wonderful I can order a backup to have on hand for when I need another one.


I love paper products overall. I’m a sucker for notebooks, journals, paper, legal pads, and ephemera. I take just as long choosing refrigerator pads to put on the fridge as I do for my spiritual journal and my online classes’ notebooks. And you had me at Post-it.

Along with the notebooks are the careful selections of the pens I use. I have arthritis in my hands so I need a thicker pen. I like retractable so I can ‘close’ the point and it won’t make stray ink marks all around, which I hate. I like ball point and not gel or marker type pens, for the same reason, no stray ink marks. I prefer black ink to blue or colors. The ink needs to lay down on the paper immediately with no warm up, and spread smoothly as I go. And the pen should be pretty. The design should be delicately balanced when I hold it, with a nice taper, and overall pleasing to use and to look at. You didn’t know there was so much to choosing a pen, did you?


A friend gave me some Paper Mate pens a few years ago. They have become my preferred pen. I love them. The Paper Mate Silhouette is my absolute favorite, it meets all the above requirements for use by moi. The Silhouette Paper Mate is is a pen that is becoming hard to find, though. The pens she gave me are so good it’s taken a few years to run out, so I ordered some Paper Mate pens with my gift certificate, This one isn’t a Silhouette but it is also a good pen.

I’ve used journals of all kinds throughout the years. I don’t really write down my thoughts and emotions like a diary, but I use them for picture thoughts, insights into things, collages and so on. Here are a few of my journals.


Clockwise. The leftmost large fabric journal with the sunflower on the front and the turned cover is actually a placemat I’d bought at the Lubec Historical Society annual July 4th yard sale sometime in the early 2000s. I turned it into a journal using a pamphlet stitch.

The beaded journal is festooned with sequins overlaid on black velvet. The paper is good. I rarely use it though.

The flowered one is a journal I’d started about the town I was living in. It has a hand written introduction and pasted-in scraps of life in the town. I started that one in 1990.

The green journal on the right is a Fabriano journal I use for an art journal. I’d written about finding a journal with Fabriano paper here. This one was started in June 2016.

The brown ring journal is a Strathmore Visual Journal from a second hand store. Strathmore is another well-known paper outlet. I wrote about finding this expensive and lovely notebook, here. It’s another art journal. I really prefer smaller ones to larger.

The red small journal is one I’d made. The cover is paste paper and the inside contains hand written thoughts on spiritual books I’d been reading. That one dates to sometime around 2000-2001. I have a LOT of these little notebooks I’d made for the same purposes.

The red one is my very first journal. My parents gave me a trip to London for my graduation. It was a Spring school trip along with other seniors in my High School. Yes, our field trips were to foreign countries. I wrote about what I saw and did and that little journal from 1978 started me both on my world travels and my obsession with chronicling everything I see and do in some kind of journal. I have other travel journals, too, of various kinds, but you get the idea.

I like paper, journals, and notebooks! With me, it’s all about the paper products. I think I’ll always be a Luddite when it comes to notebooks. I don’t have a cell phone and I don’t like keeping track of things on any electronic device, portable or not. I love the feel of notebook with a fine paper, and writing my ideas, lists, and thoughts with a well-balanced pen. Blackberry calendar just doesn’t have the same thrill for me.

How about you? Do you like notebooks? Keep it all on your phone? Use some other method? Or none at all?