Text: 19th Anonymous Tune: English carol
1. The first Noel the angel 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. R/Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel, born is the King of Israel.
2. 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. R/
3. 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. R/
4 This star drew nigh to the northwest, O'er Bethlehem it took its rest; And there it did both stop and stay, Right over the place where Jesus lay. R/
5 Then entered in those Wise Men three, Full reverently upon the knee, And offered there, in his presence, Their gold and myrrh and frankincense. R/
En Stjerne Skinne
Text: Eyvind Skeie (1946-) Tune: Tore W. Aas
1. Now is the holiest moment
Standing where starlight shines
Hearing the church bells now chiming
Ringing the Yuletide in
R/Angels are heralding a birth
Singing of peace here on earth.
Heaven has kept our earth in sight,
The star’s great light shines this night.
2. A new born love sleeping sweetly
Now are the heavens near
Our pilgrimage is completed
The star is stopping here.
3. Heaven is resting quietly
Here on earth’s golden straw
Around the manger we’re smiling
For we are present now.
R/Here we can dream of godly peace
Now ours, for which we have longed.
For in this child heav’n has come down
And filled the earth with its song.
When Jesus was born, Skeie says in his carol, heaven came to earth. So when we are with Jesus and he with us, we are in heaven. We do sing love songs that say something like that to the beloved: To be with you is heaven. What do we mean when we say that?
We are saying that we feel good, in an elevated mood, we don’t want anything more. We can say that about being with our Lord as well. In him, with him we are complete.
Jesus frequently announced to his hearers that the kingdom of God was near. That meant that he was near. People thronged to be near him, they could hear in his voice, see in his miracles and in his being, that he was something else--to use the language of love. And so they flocked to him. In John Jesus says, that when he is lifted up, he will draw all people unto him. Even before that, he did.
The shepherds came running—for good reason. The angelic voices had convinced them something was there to be seen. It would be hard after seeing and hearing that announcement not to run to the stable.
But the wise men, that is a bit different. They were used to reading the skies for knowledge and prophecies of the future. That they saw this strange star and followed it over long miles, through rough terrain, and bad weather, through dangerous territories, shows their thirst to see what it meant. Even their visit with King Herod and the scholars show a conviction that here was something they could not ignore.
And, after seeing the child, they went home by a different way. Of course in the narrative, that means they knew they had to avoid Herod. But spiritually, it means as well, I think, that they were changed by this meeting. No longer did the old way work. Now everything was different, even the road they took home.
To go to the manger is to be changed and made new. To be converted—in the Greek it means to be turned around. The wise men show us that. When we meet Jesus we meet heaven. Of course, everything changes. We have seen and been joined to a reality we had not seen before. And it has made us want to be with it forever.
HYMN INFO The First Noel is an old Cornish carol some think. It was found and included in an early collection by Davies Gilbert in Some Ancient Christmas Carols (1823). Noël is the French word for Christmas, and Nowell the English. Both are derived from the Latin word “natalis” which has to do with the nativity or birth of Jesus.
Eyvind Skeie is today Norway’s most active hymn text writer. His hymns number in the hundreds if not thousands. He and his colleague Sigvald Tveit wrote many hymns and songs together as well as musical plays. A pastor in the Norwegian church, he has also written devotionals among other things. One of his most beautiful was a work on texts in the Bible that told the story of Jesus which was handsomely illustrated by Terje Grøstad, an artist who had a studio in Flatdal, near Seljord. One of my favorite memories is during the Landstad conference in Seljord in August 2002. Eyvind came to me about 11:00 pm and said, now we are going to have an adventure. We got in the car and sped through the pearly light of the Norwegian summer night and came to the Grøstad home where he and his wife were sitting having coffee. We went in and had a lovely time until after 1:00 when we drove back to Seljord, I with a new print of Skorve, the mountain on which my grandfather was born.
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En Stjerne skinne
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