Christmas Eve is my absolute favorite day of the year! It’s a day of excitement and anticipation. Everyone who decorates leaves their lights on all night. Candles are lit, families gather together, and there is a feeling of magic in the air. It’s as if we all grab each other’s hands and hold our breaths as we wait.
Two thousand years ago, the entire world was waiting. Since the Garden of Eden, sin had overwhelmed the Jewish people, crushing their spirits and turning them away from the one true God. At the end of the Old Testament, they were beginning to see a glimmer of what was to come with many prophets foretelling the birth of a conquering King.
Then there are 400 years of silence between the Old Testament and the New Testament. Four hundred years of living in bondage to their enemies. Four hundred years of sacrifices and following laws. Four hundred years of unfulfilled promises!
Two thousand years ago, Mary and Joseph were just two ordinary Jewish people. They lived in a Jewish community, followed the Jewish laws, lived a typical Jewish life. They weren’t extra special people in the community. There was nothing unique about their betrothal. Everything was going according to their plan.
But God often wipes away our plans and replaces them with a better one. He puts us in hard places to show us a better path. He leads us where we would never go because His way is perfect.
“All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us)” – Matt. 1:22-23.
Two thousand years ago, the Jewish people were in a very long period of waiting. They were weary from the mundane problems of their world – just like us. Then along comes this governor, Quirinius, who decides that all the Jews need to be registered and taxed. Think about what a burden that must have been for the Hebrew people as many of them were forced to make long trips to their birthplace in order to be counted and taxed by their governor! And what happened to them if they couldn’t pay?
Mary is far along in her unplanned (by her) pregnancy – just one way that God was disrupting her plans. She was just a young teenager, barely out of her childhood and betrothed to a righteous man. She had very little support and excitement surrounding the impending birth of her first child, but she knew who He was. And so she patiently waited for His birth.
Joseph, a man who had been known as a righteous man up until the point Mary is found pregnant, is also waiting. Did he just want to get the birth over with, so they could move past the obvious stares and gossip accompanying this unexpected pregnancy? I don’t believe so. He knew Who he was expecting just as well as Mary did. And so he waited.
I wonder if they were as excited and anticipatory over those nine months as my kids are as I type this, lying wide awake in their beds, eagerly waiting for Christmas morning.
Mary and Joseph were the only ones truly aware of what this birth would mean. While everyone was anticipating a king, these two devout Jews were anticipating the birth of their Messiah. They were waiting on the One who would change their relationship with God forever. They were waiting on the One who would finally make the ultimate sacrifice and take away the need for them to follow rituals and Old Testament laws. They were waiting for the One who would set them free!
Christmas Eve is special to Christians because we are, once again, waiting for our Messiah to come. He has already come as Flesh to dwell among us, die for us, and save us from our sins. Now we hold our breaths and wait for His return, when He will redeem His own and finally give us a new heaven and earth to live eternally with Him. His first coming made His second coming possible.
“Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ” – Titus 2:13.
Christmas Eve is special because it reminds us of the HOPE that God gave us when He fulfilled His promise through His own Son.
Friends, I know what the origins of Christmas used to be, but Christ has conquered those things. Christians are celebrating Christmas today because we have that blessed hope that was given to us when Christ came to earth – not as a triumphant King riding in on His white stead but as an innocent baby dependent on His earthly parents to meet His basic needs.
Christmas is not about presents, Santa Clause, the Elf on the Shelf, or even family.
Christmas reminds us of that beautiful, wonderful day that HOPE was born in a dirty, smelly manger. It was the day that God showed us that He always fulfills His promises. It was the day that God opened the way for us to have direct access to Him – an open and loving relationship unbound by laws and sacrifices.
*Please stop right here and get down on your knees. Don’t let another second go by that you aren’t taking advantage of this free gift of salvation! Walk out of darkness and into the Light of God’s love. His arms are open wide for you, and He longs for you to come to Him.
If you don’t have a relationship with God, then what are you doing today? Why are you even celebrating Christmas? What does it mean to you? Where do you find hope?
“For God so loved the world,[i] that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him. 18 Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the Light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the Light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the Light and does not come to the Light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the Light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God” – John 3:16-21.