“Twas the night before Christmas”
READ: Galatians 4:1-7 (Text v4)
There’s probably no one here who is not familiar with Clement Moore’s famous poem …
“Twas the night before Christmas when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.”
It’s become a traditional Christmas Eve piece. Perhaps some of you even read it to your children last night before they went to bed. I read it to our kids (I think I enjoyed it more than they did!)
The first line of that poem sparked my imagination, and got me thinking. “Twas the night before Christmas…” I began to think about the very first Christmas Eve. The night BEFORE Jesus was born in Bethlehem. What was happening in the world the night BEFORE He came?
The Bible tells us what it was like.
The Night BEFORE Jesus came:
1. The Curse Infested the Earth
In the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve chose their own rebellious way, and mankind fell from God’s grace and favour, the Bible says that God cursed the earth. (Genesis 3). Sin brought suffering, toil, difficulty, trouble, pain, and eventually death. Under the regime of sin, the earth brought forth weeds and briars amongst the crops, and Adam toiled the ground.
And that is the way it continued – century after century. And man’s sin spread and multiplied. The day before Jesus came, the curse infested the earth.
2. Heaven Was Silent
As history was written, prophets came – men of God with a word from Heaven. Elijah, Elisha … Isaiah, Jeremiah … Ezekiel, Daniel … men hearing from God. But then there was silence. The prophet Malachi closed off the sacred writings of the Old Testament, and then 400 silent years. People still came to the temples and synagogues … but there was no more revelation. After all man’s failure to meet God’s standard, perhaps He had abandoned us? Left us to our own doomed devices?
The day before Jesus came, Heaven was silent.
3. Men Were Looking for a Saviour
Way back in the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve first sinned, God did not ONLY judge them. In His holiness He HAD to deal with sin, BUT he also gave a precious promise. A promise that those prophets reiterated time after time. The promise was of a coming Saviour. That God would not leave the earth under the curse. That He would not leave His creation to destruction – but He promised to send a deliverer – someone to make a way back to Eden … back to restored relationship with God.
And men knew the promise, and they looked for the Saviour.
- Some looked in sincerity for their promised Messiah
- Religious leaders looked for the proving of their theory
- Political activists looked for a hero to lead them
Mixed motives there were … but the day before Jesus came, men were looking for a Saviour.
4. God Was Checking His Watch
"When the fullness of the time had come"
- When the World was ready (The perfect moment of history - e.g. Pax Romana, etc)
- When Israel was ready (God’s timepiece)
BUT MOST SIGNIFICANTLY:
- When God Himself, in His perfect wisdom, was ready
The day before Jesus came, God was checking His watch.
This was the world the day BEFORE Jesus came. He arrived the next starry night in Bethlehem, and the world could never be the same again. He came and changed everything that matters.
a. He came, and lived and died to put away the curse that infested the earth. Oh, the weeds still grow … the suffering continues … but because He came it has been dealt with. Jesus gave His life to overthrow the reign of sin. Romans 8:18-22 tells us that “the whole creation groans and labours with birth pangs” right up to the present day. BUT, there is now an end in sight. The creation waits for the revealing of the sons of God … the earth will be delivered into the glorious liberty of the children of God. Just around the corner is the moment when all things will be brought back again under the perfect Lordship of Jesus Christ. He has already paid the price for sin … the price of His own blood. God raised Him from the dead, and now He sits at the Father’s right hand waiting for His enemies to be made His footstool.
b. His arrival shattered the silence of Heaven. (Hebrews 1:1-2ff)
c. He came and fulfilled all the hopes and aspirations of those who sincerely looked for God’s promised Saviour. He has made a way back to God. Not just to remove the suffering, but to bring us right into full fellowship with God again – forever and forever.
d. He came at the perfect moment … “When the fullness of the time had come.”
Thank God that where sin abounded, GRACE did much more abound.
Everything changed when Jesus was born. Because He had come, all things were made possible. The poor would receive good news; the brokenhearted could be healed; the captives might be set free; the blind receive their sight; the oppressed could be lifted up into liberty.
Of course, His arrival went largely unnoticed by most of the world – He was born in a common stable in an obscure town without pomp or ceremony. But the “quietness” of His arrival in no way diminishes the significance of it. An unknown poet captured the latent prospects of that moment in these words:
That night when in Judean skies
The mystic star dispensed its light,
A blind man moved in his sleep
And dreamed that he had sight.
That night when shepherds heard the song
Of hosts angelic choiring near.
A deaf man stirred in slumber’s spell
And dreamed that he could hear.
That night when o’er the new-born babe
The tender Mary rose to lean,
A loathsome leper smiled in sleep,
And dreamed that he was clean.
That night when in the manger lay
The Sanctified who came to save,
A man moved in the sleep of death,
And dreamed there was no grave.
Thank God for the Christmas message. Thank God for Jesus.