It was due to the census of population of Palestine that the Most Holy Virgin Mary and the Righteous Joseph had found themselves in Bethlehem nine months after Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit. Since many others came to the town for that same reason it became very difficult to find lodgings for the overnight stay. There was no room to stay either at inns or in private houses. They were thus forced to spend the night in a cave which served as a stable to shepherds. It happened that Lord Jesus Christ was laid in a manger immediately upon His birth, and that he was to be greeted initially by simple shepherds and some wise men, astrologers from the East who arrived in Bethlehem following celestial signs of the great event.
Christmas Eve marks the final stages of the Christmas fast and it is the culmination of our anticipation of the arrival of the Savior, of the of birth of the Son of God in a human body. It is in the atmosphere of jovial silence that the Church prepares to greet the Emmanuel. The faithful receive consecrated yule logs, which they then bring to their homes. Families gather in their homes over straw and leaves representing Christ’s manger in the Bethlehem cave. The night of joy, of shepherds and the wise men lies ahead.
The long expected event of Messiah’s birth is drawing near – birth of Emmanuel, incarnation of the second person of the Holy Trinity, the Son of God. He, the Lord of the world, and the King of all kings, is to be born in a human body to accomplish the act of salvation of mankind which could not be carried out by His servants.
Yule log day, one day ahead of Christmas, derives its name from the Eve of the Yule log and the ensuing night is not to be slept through. Everyone should, rather, stay awake and keep vigil. Imperial hours are celebrated on the eve of the Feast of Christ’s Birth. Each of the four hours is integrated into a single service.