Clement Clarke Moore (1779-1863) wrote the poem “Twas The Night Before Christmas” in 1822. The first publication date was the 23rd of December, 1823, and it was immediately and joyfully received by a wide audience. It is a tradition in many American families to read the poem every Christmas Eve. Here are the familiar opening lines:
‘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;
The children were nestled all sung in their beds,
While visions of sugar plums danced in their heads…
Kim and I read this poem to all of our children over the years. As we were bringing out our Christmas decorations this year, I came across our copy of the little book we would read from each year. As I looked at it, a thought came rushing over me: “Twas The Night Before Christmas” would make a great title for a Christmas message rooted in sacred Scripture. I plan on preaching this message at our Christmas Eve candlelight service at Cross Community Church.
We hear all kinds of Christmas sermons at this time of year. We are generally told to turn in our Bibles to the second chapter of Luke’s gospel and read about the foundation of Christmas. But is it? The first Christmas was not the foundation of Christmas; to find that we must return to the Garden of Eden.
You remember how Adam and Eve sinned against God. It was not enough for them to be made in the image of God. They wanted to be God and chose to believe in the lie of the deceiver, the devil himself.
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”
“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. (Genesis 3:1-7)
From the time of the fall until the first Christmas we read about in Luke 2, we were living in the period of time I call “The Night Before Christmas.” We all know that the night is a time of darkness. When Adam and Eve fell, we all fell, and the shadow of darkness covered the land.
The sin of Adam and Eve was punishable by death (Genesis 2:17). The apostle Paul confirms this by telling us that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). And God wasn’t making idle threats; upon eating the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve experienced an instant spiritual death—separation and alienation from God.
When they heard the sound of God walking in the Garden, they hid themselves from Him. The intimate fellowship they had experienced from the day God created them was no longer. Day had turned into night. But in His great mercy, God promised that it would not always be night. The Night Before Christmas would one day turn into Christmas Day. God’s infinite grace would forever extinguish the dark and dreary Night Before Christmas by taking upon Himself the punishment for our sin . . . all our sin. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel. (Genesis 3:15)
This promise from God that a Savior was to come and rescue us is the foundation of Christmas. This is the Good News of the Gospel. But that Good News doesn’t make sense without the Bad News. The glorious light of Christmas day doesn’t make sense apart from the long, dark night that preceded it. But once we understand the dark night humanity was living in since the fall in the Garden of Eden, the light of Christmas Day truly brings “glad tidings of great joy.”
The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:10-11)
Jesus is the Light of the world (John 8:12), and on that first Christmas morning, His light extinguished the dark night. The promise of God had been fulfilled; the Savior had come. Night was over; day was upon us.
Is Jesus your Savior? Have you trusted in Him alone for your eternal salvation? If you have not, you are still living in that dreary, hopeless Night Before Christmas. Acknowledge that you are a great sinner in need of an even greater Savior. Repent of your sin and receive His promised forgiveness. Receive Him by faith as your Lord and Savior. Confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead . . . and you will never again experience the Night Before Christmas.
Jesus is the reason for the season; He is the One who came to eternally extinguish the Night Before Christmas and shine the light of grace and truth into our hearts. Merry Christmas!
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!