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The Night Before Christmas

  • The Night Before Christmas from Refreshing Hope Ministries on Vimeo.

    Imagine what it must've been like to be in Bethlehem, a cozy little town surrounded by rolling hills, over 2,000 years ago on the very first Christmas Eve. Think about a time way before we had all these twinkling Christmas lights and the happy holiday songs we sing today. It was a night unlike any other, special and full of wonder, yet this miraculous event was wrapped in the ordinary cloak of daily life.

    (Luke 2:1–3 NKJV)  And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.

    (Luke 2:4–7 NKJV)  Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

    Bethlehem was a quiet, peaceful little town, sitting under a sky full of stars. The streets were just simple dirt paths, nothing fancy, softly lit by the warm light of lanterns here and there. The houses were made of stone and mud taken right from the ground. They were simple and nothing like the elaborate buildings of Rome. But right there in that little town, something amazing and beautiful was about to happen.

    During this era, the Roman Empire, with its grandeur and might, had extended its reach across the Mediterranean. Rome was a vast empire, encompassing diverse cultures and lands.

    The expansion of Rome under Julius Caesar's rule transformed it into an empire of immense scale, reaching from Egypt's sunbaked sands to the fog-shrouded shores of Britannia. In the wake of Caesar's rule emerged his successor, Caesar Augustus, who was born as Octavian. He was the grandson of Julia, Julius Caesar's sister. Octavian was a young man endowed with exceptional abilities and promise. 

    Octavian's life took a dramatic and decisive turn at the age of seventeen when Julius Caesar, recognizing his potential, adopted him as his heir in 45 B.C. However, this defining moment in Octavian's life was soon eclipsed by a sudden and tragic event – the assassination of Julius Caesar just a year later. This incident not only marked a turning point in Octavian's personal journey but also set the stage for a new chapter in the history of Rome. 

    The young Octavian divided Rome with two others—Mark Antony and Lepidus, effectively dividing control of Rome's vast territories among themselves. For decades, the Mediterranean world had been filled with war and violence. Now that it was split into three pieces, it became far worse. These were years of bloody, brutal fighting for power and money in Rome and its divided provinces. Octavian and Antony pushed out Lepidus, then Octavian defeated Antony and Cleopatra's combined forces, and he took the title "Caesar Augustus" as ruler over all of Rome when he was thirty-six years old.

    "Augustus" is a special name that means "exalted and sacred." Before Augustus, Rome had been a republic that prided itself on being a nation governed by laws and not by any man. No man was above the law in Rome. Augustus changed all of that. Rome became an empire, with him at the top. So the first emperor of Rome was Caesar Augustus, and the month of August was named after him. For decades, the world Augustus lived in, and that Jesus would be born into, the world of the Mediterranean basin, was wrecked by war, destruction, brutality, and immorality. The historian Will Durant captured it so beautifully: 

    "The lusty peninsula (of Rome) was worn out with twenty years of civil war. Its farms had been neglected, its towns had been sacked or besieged, much of its wealth had been stolen or destroyed. Administration and protection had broken down; robbers made every street unsafe at night; highwaymen roamed the roads, kidnapped travelers, and sold them into slavery. Trade diminished, investment stood still, interest rates soared, property values fell. Morals, which had been loosened by riches and luxury, had not been improved by destitution and chaos, for few conditions are more demoralizing than poverty that comes after wealth. Rome was full of men who had lost their economic footing and then their moral stability: soldiers who had tasted adventure and had learned to kill; citizens who had seen their savings consumed in the taxes and inflation of war and waited vacuously for some returning tide to life them back to affluence; women dizzy with freedom, multiplying divorces, abortions, and adulteries."

    Into this chaotic world, Jesus Christ was born, heralding the dawn of the first Christmas. It was during the reign of Caesar Augustus that a significant decree was issued – a call for a census, an extensive endeavor to register and count every person under Roman rule. This decree wasn't just a matter of record-keeping; it was a strategic move designed for more efficient taxation across the vast stretches of the Roman Empire. Known as the "first" census, it set a precedent for others that would follow.

    The decree from Caesar Augustus had a profound and far-reaching impact. A single command from his ivory palace set the entire known world into motion, compelling people to return to their ancestral homes for the census. Among them were Mary and Joseph, who embarked on a journey to Bethlehem. This journey was not just a compliance with Roman orders, but a fulfillment of a prophecy spoken centuries earlier by the prophet Micah:

    (Micah 5:2 NKJV)  “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.”

    In this way, through the mechanism of a Roman census, a divine plan gracefully unfolded. It led Mary and Joseph to the very place where ancient prophecy and their destined roles would converge.

    Joseph was from Bethlehem, and he found himself, along with Mary, preparing for a significant journey. They were tasked with traveling from Nazareth to Bethlehem to register for the census—a journey of approximately 80 to 100 miles. This was far from a simple stroll; it was a trek that would take 8 to 10 days on foot. It was a journey filled with anticipation, anxiety, and danger.

    Imagine Mary, deep in the late stages of pregnancy, setting out on this intimidating journey with Joseph. Their path wound through rolling hills and valleys, through groves of olive trees, and along narrow, rocky passes. At night, they would have camped in the open air. Despite the challenges, it would have also provided moments of companionship and reflection. They had each other. It was a journey of hope—a pilgrimage leading to a night that would eternally be cherished as the very first Christmas.

    As they arrived in Bethlehem, they found the small town teeming with travelers, all drawn by the census. Amidst this bustle, there was no room left in the inns. So, in the tranquility of a humble stable, surrounded by the quiet company of animals, Jesus was born. Far removed from the comforts of a conventional home, Mary tenderly wrapped her newborn son in cloth and gently laid him in a manger, a simple feeding trough for the animals. It was a beginning marked by profound humility and grace. The most monumental event in history was simply recorded as:

    "She gave birth to her firstborn Son."

    Far from her home in Nazareth, Mary found herself without the comforting presence of family and close friends, those who would typically offer support and comfort during such a pivotal moment. The intimate details of Mary wrapping Jesus and placing him in the manger suggest the absence of a midwife, implying that it was only her and Joseph in those quiet moments. 

    Around 150 A.D., Justin Martyr, an early Christian apologist, wrote of Jesus being born in a cave in Bethlehem. Today, the Church of the Nativity stands over this revered site. However, back then, it was merely a cold, unadorned cave that was used as a shelter for livestock. It was at this humble and unassuming place that the first Christmas took place.

    In the rolling verdant hills of Bethlehem, a special breed of sheep was raised. These were not just any sheep; they were the temple lambs, highly esteemed and cherished, for they were destined for the temple sacrifices in Jerusalem. Celebrated for their purity, these lambs were considered the best of the best and the only ones allowed to be part of sacred rituals at the temple.

    In this context, the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem takes on a deeper, symbolic significance. Known as the Lamb of God, Jesus was without blemish, a perfect embodiment of purity and sacrifice. His birth in Bethlehem, amidst these temple lambs, even in their shelter, was fittingly symbolic. It seemed as though the very setting whispered of the role He was to fulfill in the world—a role replete with love, sacrifice, and redemption.

    The Lamb of God, born in the land of the temple lambs, creates a touching connection between the physical and the spiritual. This convergence serves as a powerful testament to His divine purpose and the extraordinary journey Jesus embarked upon, beginning with that humble, yet momentous first night in Bethlehem.

    In the quiet fields surrounding the town, under the canopy of a starlit sky, a group of shepherds watched over their flocks through the night. An angel, radiant and awe-inspiring, suddenly appeared before these humble shepherds, bringing a message of great joy and significance.

    The angel announced to them that Christ the Lord had been born, and it had to have filled the shepherds' hearts with awe and wonder. They were told they would find the newborn King, not in a grand palace, but in the most humble of places, nestled in a manger – a mere feeding trough for animals.

    Jesus Christ's birth is one of humble beginnings for the One who would be known as the King of all kings. The Messiah, the Son of God, entered this world not amidst wealth and luxury, but in a simple, unadorned cave in Bethlehem, a place that sheltered and smelled like livestock. There, among the sheep, lay the newborn Jesus, his first bed a feeding trough, a manger.

    The unblemished Lamb of God, born in a Bethlehem stable, would later be examined by Pontius Pilate, who declared, 'I find no fault in this man.' His beginnings were humble and modest, and his end, so momentous and sacrificial. This story forms the very essence of the Christian faith.

    Indeed, God had the power and thousands of years to plan the most magnificent entrance for His Son. He could have chosen for Jesus to be born to wealthy parents, in a grand palace, or even within the sacred walls of the temple. But in His infinite wisdom, God chose a different path. He selected a simple livestock cave for the birth of His Lamb. This choice alone speaks volumes about the nature of God, His love, and the message of Jesus. Great things come from small beginnings.

    There is a simple down-to-earth humility and lack of pomp about God that is so admirable. He is the opposite of insecure and chooses not to impress anyone. This characteristic was evident in Jesus’ ministry. When the Pharisees demanded signs and wonders, Jesus said no and focused on teaching and healing instead. Similarly, when James and John wished to call down heavenly fire on a village that had rejected them, Jesus simply advised them to move on to the next town. To know Him is to love Him.

    Remember that Jesus is the reason we have seasons, for He created them, and may God richly bless you!

    You can pray this with me if you like: 

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, I adore You. I thank You so much for sending Your Son, Jesus, to redeem me. Please help me get in tune with what You are doing on Earth today. Speak to me in a clear way that I understand, fill me with Your Spirit, and don't pass me by. I want more of You in my life today. In the name of Jesus Christ, I pray. Happy Birthday, Jesus. Amen!


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25 comments
  • 4
Dion Todd
Dion Todd Merry Christmas, Everyone! God bless you!
December 25, 2023
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  • 2
Debi Burton
Debi Burton Heavenly Father, I adore You. I thank You so much for sending Your Son, Jesus, to redeem me. Please help me get in tune with what You are doing on Earth today. Speak to me in a clear way that I understand, fill me with Your Spirit, and don't pass me by. I want more of You in my life today. In the name of Jesus Christ, I pray. Happy Birthday, Jesus. Amen! ❤️
December 25, 2023
Comment deleted
  • 6
Liesel  aka  Lisa Wardle
Liesel aka Lisa Wardleedited: December 24, 2023

AMEN and AMEN, Pastor, so very blessed today, encouraged and uplifted!!! Seeing prophesy fulfilled "Isaiah 9:6", thrills my heart and soul, not only mere words in the Old Testament, but the fulfillment in the New Testament recorded by true witnesses, "Luke 2:11"!!!My heart is filled with the knowledge of  Hope, a living Hope and Assurance! The Lord, our Lord has come and will come again, for us, may it be soon!!! (h5) MERRY CHRISTMAS to each and everyone, and like tiny Tim said in the old Christmas Carol movie "God bless us everyone"! (h5) (L)

December 24, 2023
  • 5
Dana Rozell
Dana Rozell

Amen! Merry Christmas Everyone!

December 25, 2023
  • 3
Candy Laventure
Candy Laventure

Amen!

December 25, 2023
  • 5
Sylvia Todd
Sylvia Todd

Merry Christmas, y'all, may the Lord bless you all with a peaceful and joyous day :!

December 25, 2023
  • 3
Kay Collinsworth
Kay Collinsworth

Amen, Happy Birthday Jesus!

Merry Christmas Everyone,!

December 25, 2023
  • 3
Mari Kaufmann
Mari Kaufmann

Don't pass ME by. Amen

thank you God for your many blessings  

Merry Christmas everyone. I pray we all have a wonderful day. In the name of Jesus Ame. 

December 25, 2023
  • 1
Mark Williams
Mark Williams

Merry Christmas to all. Dion,I like that explanation of why there was no room at the inn.

December 25, 2023
  • 2
Marisa Jackson
Marisa Jackson

Amen!! Amen!! Amen!! Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday Jesus!!

December 25, 2023
  • 2
David Krull
David Krull

Amen. Merry Christmas you all. God blesss you pastor and Sylvia. Thankyou for serving the Lord. 

December 25, 2023
  • 2
Brenda F
Brenda F

Amen! Happy Birthday Jesus! Merry Christmas Pastor Dion and Sylvia

December 25, 2023
  • 2
Lynn Brown
Lynn Brown

Love this message Pastor Dion, truly a magnificent Christmas story! Praise God for His love and for the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ! Merry Christmas and God bless everyone!!

December 25, 2023
  • 2
Wendy Grimm
Wendy Grimm

Wonderful! Thank you! MERRY CHRISTMAS. A child is born HALLELUJAH!! Many blessings to you both. MARANATHA! 

December 25, 2023
  • 2
Yvette York
Yvette York

Merry Christmas Everyone Have A Bless Day 

December 25, 2023
  • 2
Celeste Strenn
Celeste Strenn

Amen❣️Thank you adorable amazing awesome dear Lord Jesus❣️

December 25, 2023
  • 2
Celeste Strenn
Celeste Strenn

Merry Christmas everyone ❣️

Thank you Pastor Dion and Sylvia ❣️

December 25, 2023
  • 2
Deng Tembreza
Deng Tembreza

MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY BIRTHDAY JESUS.  WE LOVE YOU.

December 25, 2023
  • 2
Wanda Pennington
Wanda Penningtonedited: December 25, 2023

Amen and Amen 

Merry Christmas to everyone!

December 25, 2023
  • 2
Wesley Paulus
Wesley Paulus

Amen! 

December 25, 2023
  • 1
Sherry McCosh
Sherry McCosh

Heavenly Father, I adore You. I thank You so much for sending Your Son, Jesus, to redeem me. Please help me get in tune with what You are doing on Earth today. Speak to me in a clear way that I understand, fill me with Your Spirit, and don't pass me by. I want more of You in my life today. In the name of Jesus Christ, I pray. Happy Birthday, Jesus. Amen!

December 25, 2023
  • 2
Kathy Banfield
Kathy Banfield

Merry Christmas everyone! 

This is one of the best Nativity commentary I've come across!

December 25, 2023
  • 2
Susan Petho
Susan Petho

Amen!

Happy Birthday, Jesus!

Merry Christmas to all!

December 26, 2023