You guys, I have a confession to make.
I have a slight obsession with Christmas decorations. Whenever the holidays roll around, I am constantly on the lookout for the latest adorable Christmas decor for my house. This year I started to notice a pattern in my shopping habits. Anytime I see the word “Noel” I am instantly drawn to that piece! As I sit on my couch now, I can see at least three decorations that include that word! My affinity for the word Noel has neither rhyme, nor reason. The Christmas carol is a favorite of mine, but it’s just such a pretty word, isn’t it? It glides off the tongue with such grace, ease and simplicity. Yet, as I read further into the history of the word, I discovered that an alternate spelling, “Nowell” can be traced back to English roots.
Nowell. Hmm. Not nearly as pretty! Why does that spelling of the word strike such an uncomfortable chord with me? Surely I do not like the word simply for the way it is spelled. Let’s keep digging, shall we? It is ultimately derived from the Latin word natalis, which means birthday, or anniversary. Ah there we go! Birthdays and anniversaries, THESE are a few of my favorite things! Cupcakes and presents, anyone?!
In the Christmas carol, The First Noel, the song talks about the birthday of Jesus, as chronicled in The New Testament. The birth of our Savior is arguably one of the most profound, yet humbling beginnings recorded in human history.We all have one; we all have beginnings. This beginning, however, was special. This beginning marked a day that the world changed, the Earth was still, and ahush fell over creation.
Everyone knows this universal beginning. Most anyone can recognize this famous opening verse of The First Noel. Go ahead, sing it to yourself - I’ll wait.
"The First Noel, the Angels 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"
Can you imagine what it must have been like on that crisp, deep, still night? Many of us have probably envisioned that scenario at some point or another. You might even know the next part of the story…
"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."
The shepherds took a leap of faith. They followed a star. They wandered and walked in the cold to witness the humble beginning of our Lord, Jesus Christ. We know how important this story is! We know it holds such weight and meaning and so we finish the song by singing:
"Then let us all with one accord
Sing praises to our heavenly Lord
That hath made Heaven and Earth of nought
And with His blood mankind has bought.
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel! Born is the King of Israel!"
But did you know there is more to the story? Did you know there are three more verses in the traditional carol? I would be willing to bet there are very few who can recite these words:
"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 Pause and stay
Right o'er the place where Jesus lay.
Then entered in those Wise men three
Full reverently upon their knee
And offered there in His presence
Their gold and myrrh and frankincense."
Now, I am not saying that we should sit for hours and hours at church this year and sing every obscure verse of every Christmas carol ever written. But I do think there is something to be said about those middle verses.
Without the middle, we can’t quite grasp the whole story.
In this middle of this carol, we hear about the wise men. We read about people seeking a King, we sing of the place where Jesus lay! The middle of this song is where all the meat is! Oh, how I would love to sit across the table from each of you and dig into the juiciness of this song! Isn’t it beautiful and wonderful and remarkable and all of those other adjectives?
But friends, the point here is that if we fail to acknowledge the middle, we fail to see the entire story. When we disregard the middle, we run the risk of missing out on some of the most important pieces of the puzzle! Jesus laying in a manger, wise men on bended knee in the presence of our precious Savior. If we pretend these verses are not there, we ignore such sweet blessings.
What is your middle?
What could God be trying to show you in the mundane, the everyday, the commonplace? Are you savoring each moment or are you rushing through trying to make it to the end as quickly as possible?
There is so much to be learned from the middle, for better or for worse. Don't hurry through this holiday season rushing to the finish line. The next time you hear a holiday carol as you are waiting in line at the mall, stop and savor the moment to rest. The next time you are begging your child to just walk a little bit faster because you are late for school, pause and appreciate their gentle reminder to slow down. The next time you are wishing the monotony away, pause for a moment and think about your middle. Ask God to whisper blessings and favor in the middle.
You never know what sweet verses could be in store for you.
Kim Giron is an elementary school teacher from Southern California. She holds a B.S. in Child Development and is currently pursuing a Master's Degree in Educational Technology. Kim is passionate about instilling a genuine love for learning and zest for life within her students and is always striving to grow as an educator. When she is not surrounded by third graders, she enjoys leading worship alongside her hunky husband, trying out new restaurants and cuddling on the couch with her sassy pup. She craves real, raw conversations and authentic connections with other women and is always up for a good chick flick!