Tis the season! Like most, I love Christmas. Childhood memories of anticipation, the distribution of gifts and family gatherings fill my mind like an old friend never far from the heart. Here in Sydney, Australia where I live Christmas time is greeted with summer days cooled by ice cold eskies; for you it might be quite the opposite – snow filled streets and Eggnog. The magic and the message though very much the same. My greatest joy comes with the stories of Christmas, deeper than a saint they call Nicholas, but a baby called Emmanuel.
In Matthew’s letter we are introduced to a group of intellectuals and priests called the Magi. They followed a star from the East that led them to Jerusalem. They came to enquire of a king; a Potemkin named Herod who didn’t deserve the robes nor the title. The religious scholars came and directed the Wise to Bethlehem, a town barely big enough to support a hotel let alone an inn with a spare room on a starry night for a man named Joseph and his pregnant fiancé.
In Luke’s gospel we learn of the shepherd’s watching their flock under a Jerusalem sky. The hosts of heaven would dart across the sky singing their songs proclaiming ‘for today in Bethlehem a Rescuer was born for you.’
These stories fill my heart with all the joy and promises we hold dear in Christendom. To share a phrase by Timothy Keller ‘Christmas really happened!’
But what captures my imagination as I pen these words is the silence as Jerusalem embarked on the eve of the very first Christmas. Every night that went before it was filled with silence. Mothers would go to bed with hopes and aspirations finding sleep and dreaming dreams only to wake with nothing. Dreams would fall to the ground broken and empty. Fathers would wander about in the darkness for it had been 400 years since Malachi. For centuries the people of Israel hadn’t had a prophet echoing God’s voice. But it’s eve! There is a whisper; Herod is on the rampage angry and insecure. The Magi are on the move bearing gifts. There’s a peace beyond understanding. The people would remember stories of old; they would recall the promise of a Messiah. The one Isaiah, Zechariah and Micah spoke of. Maybe, just maybe, they can dream again.
Eve is a familiar name, from the beginning we know her. The Hebrew word is ‘Chawwah’ which means ‘to breathe’ or ‘to live.’
The noun for eve carries an interesting definition, the day of or period of time immediately before an event or occasion.
If you can journey back in your mind again to downtown Bethlehem a little over two-thousand years ago and imagine Christmas Eve. In the silence a baby is ready to be born, He is
for everyone everywhere, come to rescue and to save. Born in a stable, for that is where a lamb ought to be born. Four hundred years of suffering, dreamless nights and cries filled with bitter tears, but the silence is about to find it’s voice again for it is eve. An event and occasion; a breath of life and His name was Jesus!
What would this Christmas eve bring for you? A new breath of life? A new perspective or promise? Maybe, just maybe, you could dream again! Maybe, just maybe, you can come alive and live again!