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  • Baptist Beacon

Night Before Christmas: A debate

Clement Clark Moore

PLYMOUTH – In 1822, Professor Clement Clark Moore, a family man and biblical scholar wrote the poem, “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” for his children. The poem that became an American favorite started as a simple expression of love of a father to his children during the holidays. History says that Moore ideas and images came to him after a wintery shopping trip riding in a sleigh and spotting a Dutch immigrant who gave him the idea for St. Nicholas.

Reports say that a friend, visiting from elsewhere in the state of New York, who listened as Moore read to his children on evening, was so moved by the poem that the friend took a copy of Moore’s poem, without his permission, to a local newspaper who published the story the next year and each year during the holidays.

Moore, a poet and biblical scholar, was embarrassed by the acclaim given to his poem for so long that he did not claim authorship until 1837 after his family urged him to announce his ownership. Moore wanted to be known for his writings about Scripture, not a legend about St. Nicholas. Later, due to his family’s encouragement Moore finally placed the poem in his book of poetry in 1844, twenty-two years later.

Since those early days until now, scholars still debate whether Moore is the author or another man by the name of Major Henry Livingston who died in 1828. Livingston never claimed to have written the poem but his family, after his death without any physical evidence, claimed their beloved major was the writer of “Twas the Night Before Christmas.”

The Certainty

As we approach the time of year when we commemorate the wonderful miracle of the Lord becoming flesh (John 1:14) in Jesus Christ, do you find this celebration strengthens your faith? I feel bolder and more certain with each year’s celebration of Christ’s birth! The story we celebrate was planned before the beginning of time, long before the aroma of the Garden of Eden filled the nostrils of Adam and Eve.

Look at the image of the author, Clement Clark Moore, of Twas the Night Before Christmas. He looks stoic and solemn in the black and white picture with his long coat and streaming beard, yet he was a loving earthly father who carved out time during the hectic holiday season to pen a poem to entertain his children and ultimately the world’s children for 201 years. Throughout the years, as I lived overseas with my wife and our children as missionaries on three continents, I would on occasion recite the poem to our children stretching their imaginations about winter while we lived on the edge of the African Sahara Desert.

However, the one story I will never explain away as a legend of entertainment is the Good News of Jesus Christ! I now have nine grandchildren who know with every ounce of certainty that their papa clings to his hope in Jesus Christ.

Paul said it best to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 15 (NLT), “Let me now remind you, dear brothers and sisters, of the Good News I preached to you before. You welcomed it then, and you still stand firm in it. It is this Good News that saves you . . . I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him.”

That is the kind of story we need to read on Christmas Eve. My hope and prayer for all of us this Christmas season is that our lives and testimonies in Jesus Christ will be seen and heard by those around us so that their faith will grow stronger and more certain this holiday season. Merry Christmas!



Dr. Tony L. Lynn is the State Director of Missions for the Baptist State Convention of Michigan. Before coming on staff at the BSCM, Tony served as lead pastor for more than six years at Crosspoint Church in Monroe, Michigan. He and his wife, Jamie, also served with the International Mission Board in Africa and in Europe.


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