By Bob Bunn
Clement Moore had an impressive resume. After earning a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from Columbia College (now Columbia University), Moore established himself as a respected writer and scholar. He spent nearly 30 years serving as a professor of ancient languages and literature at a seminary in New York City. He even wrote a textbook for interpreting biblical Hebrew. Having struggled through a semester of Hebrew in seminary myself, that alone earns my respect!
Yet despite all his achievements, he’s probably best associated with a children’s poem: “A Visit from St. Nicholas.” For 200 years, the words ’Twas the night before Christmas have brought smiles to the faces of young and old alike. The poem has spawned countless cultural references, appearing in television specials, movies, and books.
But since the poem originally appeared as “anonymous” in 1823, Moore’s authorship has long been questioned. He stated that the poem was a gift to his children, never meant to be published. Others—like the family of writer Henry Livingston—claim that Livingston created the work. Passionate advocates on both sides continue to argue about who introduced America to Santa Claus.
But while this debate about St. Nick has raged on, the true central figure of Christmas was introduced to the world more than 2,000 years ago. Even further than that, Jesus’s arrival was prophesied centuries earlier by prophets like Isaiah. And then, when the time arrived, angels assured both Mary and Joseph that Immanuel was coming.
The name Immanuel is more than just a title or nickname for Jesus. It’s the fulfillment of a promise that began in the garden of Eden and continues to resonate today. It means “God with us,” and that’s exactly the message God wanted to share by sending His Son to the world. The truth that God was with His people encouraged a nation waiting for a sign of hope and a reason to rejoice. After years of Roman oppression, they needed to know that God was still with them. Jesus was God’s response.
But Immanuel also serves as a reminder that Bethlehem was just the beginning. He has been at work through the ages, and He remains active in our lives today. God is with us to provide salvation for the lost. God is with us to share our hurts and calm our fears. God is with us to guide us when we don’t know where to turn. As you count down the final hours until Christmas, spend time reflecting on what Immanuel means to you. If you gather with family and friends, welcome Him into your celebration. If you spend the evening in the quiet of your own thoughts, remember that you are never really alone.
Immanuel is always present. God is always with you. That’s the true message of Christmas.