Summary: This is a pre-Christmas message.
The Night Before Christmas
Text: Malachi 4:1-6
1 The LORD Almighty says, "The day of judgment is coming, burning like a furnace. The arrogant and the wicked will be burned up like straw on that day. They will be consumed like a tree – roots and all.
2 "But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture.
3 On the day when I act, you will tread upon the wicked as if they were dust under your feet," says the LORD Almighty.
4 "Remember to obey the instructions of my servant Moses, all the laws and regulations that I gave him on Mount Sinai for all Israel.
5 "Look, I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the LORD arrives.
6 His preaching will turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the hearts of children to their parents. Otherwise I will come and strike the land with a curse."
Subject: The Night Before Christmas
‘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 Saint Nicolas
Soon would be there.
My brothers and sisters, this is the beginning of a very familiar Christmas poem that surfaces year after year for our amusement and to usher us into the spirit of the holiday season. This poem deals with what is supposed to be a typical American family on the night before Christmas. This poem assumes that Saint Nicolas or the one that we know and refer to as Santa Claus will be visiting the house to deliver presents and to eat cookies and drink hot chocolate or milk while the family is sound asleep. It is a very delightful and entertaining story of the night before Christmas.
But what I’ve discovered, my brother and sisters, is that this poem fails to mention anything that would give the reader any inkling of the real meaning of Christmas. There is no Christ in this Christmas story. There is no mention of a manger or a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes. There is no tale of angels performing a late night concert for shepherds tending to sheep in a pasture. Nor is there any reference to gifts being delivered by wise men from the Far East. There is no virgin in this Christmas story. Nor is there a Savior to save a dying world.
This poem, my brothers and sisters, is an extension of the commercialism that has consumed the Christmas message and has left it meaningless and void of Christ. When most people today think of Christmas, their initial thoughts go to all of the shopping that must be done before its arrival. Starting with the day after Thanksgiving, people begin to lose their mind invading the full spectrum of stores – from Wal-Mart to Macy’s – just to find the perfect gifts for family and friends, and even co-workers.
Children begin to fantasize about the latest toy or video game without any cognizance that their wish list must be funded financially. Parents use what is supposed to be a joyous time of year to deal with harassing calls from creditors that they decided to put off until after they’ve completed their Christmas splurge and received their tax refund.
Children become hurt if they don’t receive what they want. And parents will do anything to see their child’s face light up on Christmas morning. Unlike when I was growing up, there is no satisfaction in receiving oranges, apples, and nuts in a red stocking. There is no joy in drinking hot chocolate and watching “Rudolf the Red Noses Reindeer” on TV. Nowadays, we want gifts and we want them more abundantly.
But my brothers and sisters, on this Sunday before Christmas Eve Sunday, I want to invite each of you to take a trip with me back in time. I want to go beyond my childhood when there was still a notion of the true meaning of Christmas, and go all the way back to the day before the Christ of Christmas came to be.
As we travel back almost 2000 years, we find that the Roman Empire had amassed vast wealth and territory throughout the civilized world. It was common practice at the time of Jesus, for the Romans to conquer territory and make the people subjects and even slaves. The people in the land would be governed by officers appointed by Rome for that purpose and in rare cases would they maintain any significance of independence.
Thus the Jews in the days of Jesus were an oppressed people. They were given very little room for independence and fell under the governorship of Herod the Great. On the night before Christmas, they were a people who had gone 400 years since the prophet Malachi had last given them a Word from the Lord. This people that had been accustomed to prophets like Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Jeremiah proclaiming the message of the almighty God, should have been overwhelmed by the absence of God’s presence and the deficiency of a direct Word from Him.