Today’s Word is Noel.  I knew that “Noel” meant Christmas in French, but I looked it up online  Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary to dig a little deeper and this is what I found:

“Noel” Definition:
A Christmas Carol

English speakers borrowed the word noel from French.  It can be traced further back to the Latin word natalist,which can mean “birthday” as a noun or “of or relating to birth” as an adjective. (The English adjective natal has the same meaning and is also an offspring of natalis.). Noels were being sung in Latin or French for centuries before the word found its way into our language in the 1800s.  The earliest known musical use of noel occurred in the text of a Christmas motet called “Nova obis guadia,” which was written in the 1400s.

Well, thank you Merriam-Webster, I learned something new!  After reading that, I think it is so beautiful that the word is rooted in the latin for birthday or relating to birth.  At Christmastime we focus on so many things…the decorations, the trees, the baking, the wrapping of presents, traveling to visit the ones we love, hoping for snow, the light shows, the magic of Santa Claus for children, candy canes and peppermint bark, sending cards, receiving packages…but the sole reason we actually celebrate Christmas is because it is the day we commemorate the birth of Christ (even if it may not be the literal day of his birth).  Birthdays are something special.  They are really remarkable, putting focus on the person who was born and celebrating their life!  But the birthday of the Savior-King, God-With-Us, now that is a cause for celebration!  And there were so many miracles surrounding His birth…  I believe every baby is a miracle, but the greatest miracle of all was Baby Jesus, the Christ Child, the Messiah!

I didn’t know exactly what to write for today’s blog, but then as I was rocking my baby boy to sleep tonight after a packed weekend of Christmas festivities, church, singing engagements, and all…I started thinking about how chaotic life feels right now and Christmas is only one week away.  I gave Jamie fair warning, “I might not get everything done this week that I need to, because I want to focus more on joy than all the other stuff…” and that made him smile, indeed, for he is always telling me he’d rather me be joyful than have me finish my to-do list and have a perfectly organized house and dinner on the table on time and all of that (I have a really good husband who cares more about my heart than keeping up appearances).  After I told him about choosing joy over the rest of the stress this week, I realized, that’s what I want to write about tonight.  

NOËL is about the birth of Jesus, not about everything else we feel like we need to do this time of year.  Maybe your Christmas cards haven’t been sent out- that’s ok!  Maybe you didn’t bake cookies for all your neighbors- they won’t know any different!  Maybe your house is a mess and you haven’t figured out what you’re bringing to Christmas dinner and you didn’t even finish putting up all the decorations and the gifts for stockings won’t be quite as extravagant this year because “Santa” has just had a lot on his plate and maybe you’re feeling like all the goals you set for 2017 crashed and burned and…ah the list goes on!  The perpetual to-do list in the back of our minds that seems to pile up taller than the Christmas tree this time of year, every year. (I don’t know about you, but my list is always written out, and unfortunately most of the things seem to never get checked off or crossed out! The list just gets longer!)  Jesus cares about our heart at Christmas, not all that we do.  He’s not concerned with you throwing the best holiday party or having the nicest gifts to give your kids or that your house looks like a Martha Stewart or Magnolia magazine.  He is concerned with only a few things, and we can find those in the characters of the Christmas story surrounding his birth.

When we look at the Shepherds (Day 1 in our Advent Journey), we see men who raced off to find Jesus so that they could worship Him.  When we look at the Wise Men (Day 15 was star in our Advent Journey), we find men again who stopped everything in search for the King, to worship Him and bow down with their gifts.  When we look at Mary (Day 14 was baby in our Advent Journey), we see a woman who paused to treasure up every moment and magnified the Lord on High.  We see these characters and the common theme revealed in all of them is Worship (Day 13 in our Advent Journey).  I love how God is weaving a thread in our hearts this Advent, tying truth together in a beautiful bow, wrapping the gift of the Savior for us in such a way that we see things in a new light (Day 3 of our Advent Journey).  Nothing else mattered- only that they worshipped the newborn King. Tonight at the Candlelight Christmas Service at Hope Fellowship Church in Sterling, Virginia, where I sang a few songs, the message from Pastor Mattar was all about worship.  He explained that whether Christmas is a time of cheer for you or a time of pain and struggle, we need to get our hearts in a place of worship.  That is all that is important.  We need to bow before King Jesus.  It is His birthday we celebrate, and we need to throw the biggest party in our hearts, overflowing with joy and praise!  Worship makes all the difference at Christmas.  Because when we worship Christ, in the light of His glory, we see others around us in a new perspective, and instead of caring about all this “stuff” we have going on, we care about human beings as children of God.  We care about eternity and we care about showing Christ’s love.  

I just want to write about one more thing before I pack it up for the night, close my laptop, and get some rest.  This morning, I have to tell you, I heard the most beautiful version of “O Holy Night” I have ever heard in my life.  I was in church with Jamie and Joey, and we decided to worship in the little chapel where they play the service on the screen instead of the main sanctuary, because Joey had a cold this week and we didn’t want him spreading germs to other babies in the nursery.  There is a special needs ministry at our church, which is really amazing.  I’ve made acquaintances with a few of the folks and I have one good friend with special needs- he is one of my favorite people at church (his family is involved with local pro-life work too).   This ministry group comes to the chapel every Sunday for worship before going back to their Sunday School class.  There’s about a dozen of mostly young people with special needs, and they just light up that room when they pile in…Let me tell you, their joy fills the atmosphere instantly!

Well, we sang carols this morning, but something about “O Holy Night”…I heard their voices belting it out with such gusto and ardor, I had to turn and catch a glimpse of their faces.  It was pure enthusiasm and total abandon in worship.  The pitch may not have been right, in fact it was all over the map.  The timing of words may have been a little off.  But let me tell you, I felt more joy in that moment of worship, more passion and authenticity, than I have in a long time.  It was the real deal.  It was, as I previously said, enthusiasm.  This word dates back to Latin and Greek roots in the 1500s, with “En Theos” meaning “In God”.  These brothers and sisters in Christ from the special needs ministry who were in the chapel this morning were totally and completely caught up in God. They worshipped with the zeal of the Wise Men, the humility of the Shepherds, the beauty of Mary.  I was absolutely inspired by their worship in that moment, to pour out my own heart in worship to the King as well.  It’s Jesus Birthday, folks! Let’s celebrate! Let’s worship! Noël!  Noël! Born is the King of Israel!