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#883 - "The First Noel" by Marc Martel
Marc Martel takes us behind the scenes of the process of reimagining a classic carol.

Posted: December 20, 2017 | By: KevinDavis_NRT
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The First Noel EP is the latest collection of Christmas songs from Marc Martel, following up last year's The Silent Night EP. The EP is the result of a Kickstarter campaign funding two new EPs; the other in the pair will be a covers EP, releasing in a few months.
This project features Christmas favorites including "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas," a duet with Plumb, "Mary, Did You Know?" and "The Christmas Song."  I have especially enjoyed Marc's reverent recordings of "The First Noel," "Ave Maria" and "The Hallelujah Chorus." I had the chance to speak with Marc about his take on "The First Noel."
Please tell me the personal story behind this song.
I brought in my friend Jordan, who produced the song. He's one of my best friends who I've known since college, and he chose the song, envisioning it as something suitable for my voice. Historically for me, this was one of those wallpaper Christmas songs if I'm honest. It struck me as more of a lullaby-type song. I'm sure I've heard it sung emotionally and with an orchestra, which is what we decided to do with the song. It was a bit of a surprise for me, and because of that it made sense to name this new album The First Noel EP, as this song was a bit of a sleeper hit for me. 
It's a simple song that everyone knows recounting the birth of Christ and the situation surrounding it. What I love to do with well-known songs is to write a new piece of lyric or music to go with it. I did that with "O Come Emmanuel" and "What Child is This" on my last album. For this song, I wrote a new bridge which re-focuses the lullaby-esque feeling of the song and injected some theology, talking about the incarnation that unites us all in one voice for those of us who believe. I got to record with a choir for the first time with this song. My friend Jordan had a huge vision for this song, and he wanted it to be classical with huge orchestration, which I really enjoyed.
Which Bible verses connect to the message of the song?
Isaiah 60:1 (NASB): "Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you."
Luke 2:15-19 (VOICE): "As soon as the heavenly messengers disappeared into heaven, the shepherds were buzzing with conversation. Shepherds: Let's rush down to Bethlehem right now! Let's see what's happening! Let's experience what the Lord has told us about! So they ran into town, and eventually they found Mary and Joseph and the baby lying in the feeding trough. After they saw the baby, they spread the story of what they had experienced and what had been said to them about this child. Everyone who heard their story couldn't stop thinking about its meaning. Mary, too, pondered all of these events, treasuring each memory in her heart."
Matthew 4:16 (NKJV): "The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned."
John 8:12 (NKJV): "Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, 'I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.'"
Matthew 5:14 (NKJV): "You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden."
What is the takeaway message?
This song was a lot of fun to record, and the big orchestration and choir reminded me that music can be bigger than just what we record in our own home studios. Thinking about the song in that way really turned my opinion of the song on its head. It turned into a big singer kind of song. That really is what the Christmas story is worthy and deserving of: our biggest efforts. 
In many ways, my favorite thing about Christmas is the subtlety. There are many aspects of Christmas in this song. I love Christmas because it is a time of year where you can make it as meaningful as you want, and I'm grateful we still live in a culture that allows for that. At its heart, we are celebrating the beginning of life. We are celebrating the birth of a Child, and that God made Himself a Man and could truly experience humanity so viscerally. He went through all of the range of emotions we go through, as a perfect Person, and this song boils it down to a simple way of understanding part of that story. 
Having spent some time outside of CCM the past few years I'm sensitive and I make sure I'm not just preaching to the choir, but also making this life giving message completely accessible to anyone who hears it. God stepped in and did exactly the opposite of what people expected. In our fallen natures we think of justice and vengeance, and Jesus came as a baby and showed us tenderness and forgiveness.
The first Noel, the angels did say
Was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay
In fields where they lay a keeping their sheep
On a cold winter's night that was so deep
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel
Born is the King of Israel
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
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel
Born is the King of Israel
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel
Born is the King of Israel
All hearts in Heaven and earth 
Turn to the incarnate word 
All with one grateful voice 
Sing praise our God and rejoice
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel
Born is the King of Israel
The phrase "And to the earth it gave great light, and so it continued both day and night," is something all believers can sing about the Star of Bethlehem and about Jesus, who is the Light of the World. Our King Jesus now seated at the right hand of God in Heaven is one of those beautiful truths that we can all cling to and get through anything we might be dealing with on this side of eternity, knowing that we have a blessed hope waiting for us in Heaven. Down here, I often feel like a dull person that isn't showing God's light in my life. Knowing I have the light of life inside of me as a believer is very convicting to know that my life needs to shine for Christ, even on my bad days. I love knowing that in my brokenness, I am actually closer to God.
This song is a great way to thank Jesus for our undeserved gift of grace. Grace is freely given, and isn't something we can earn by our good works. It is a gift from God by faith in Christ Jesus. The gift of eternal life in Jesus Christ started at Christmas and continues until we see Him face to face. This song is a great way to be filled with the joy of Jesus. Just like those shepherds who were first told about Jesus being born, we are called as believers to spread the story of "good tidings of great joy" and how we've experienced Jesus. To celebrate the gift of grace this Christmas and all year, remember and sing along "All with one grateful voice, sing praise our God and rejoice, Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel, Born is the King of Israel." Amen and Merry Christmas!
Listen to the song below.


NRT Lead Contributor Kevin Davis is a longtime fan of Christian music, an avid music collector and credits the message of Christian music for leading him to Christ. He lives in Pennsylvania with his wife and three daughters.

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