Luke 1:7- 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. NKJV
A few days ago I had some students arguing about Christmas. Finally, two of them came to me and asked me, “Isn’t Christmas Jesus’ birthday?” Of course, knowing that it is not, I answered, “It’s the day that we celebrate the birth of Jesus”. It didn’t take them long to realize that what I said and what they believed didn’t match. They walked away mumbling that their parents had lied to them all of their lives. That was not my intention, it is simply what I believe to be true, and it’s not my practice to lie to validate others.
Theoretically, I believe there are some hints in the Bible that give us a clue as to the actual season of the birth of Jesus. I would like to share them, not to change your mind or discredit this holiday, but to inform you.
Luke’s account of the gospel is written in the form of a letter to a man of distinction named Theophilus. Luke makes this statement:
It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed.Luke 1:3-4 NKJV
It appears that Theophilus is either a new believer, or a Gentile individual interested in more information about Jesus. So Luke sets pen to paper and embarks on a chronological account of what happened.
There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah.Luke 1:5 NKJV
Luke says that things began when the angel visited Zacharias, the priest, while he was performing his duties in the temple. The course of Abijah was the eighth week of service in the temple. This meant that each priest had an opportunity to serve in the temple for a week, twice a year. I did a Google search to validate that timeframe, and several articles, Jewish articles included, reference the time of this meeting in late May or early June. So we can infer that Elisabeth became pregnant sometime in late June.
Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.Luke 1:26-27 NKJV
Luke continues his narrative to Theophilus by telling him that when Elisabeth was six months pregnant, Gabriel visited Mary and told her that she was going to have a son. When she expressed that she was a virgin and didn’t understand how this could happen the angel replied:
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.”Luke 1:35-37 NKJV
This statement places the conception of Jesus around December and His birth around September.
When I was in high school, I became interested in the history surrounding the birth of Jesus. When I opened the encyclopedia and found the heading for Christmas, I was stunned by the first statement in the article calling Christmas a pagan holiday. As I continued to read, I saw that the Roman Church, in a desire to reach the pagans, formally declared that December 25th would be the day of the celebration of the birth of Jesus. This was done in order to make it more receptive to all, as they were already celebrating the sun god. This account is still shared historically.
Is this accurate? It seems to be a part of history and explains why the Bible points us to a different season than our traditions. Does it matter? Yes and no!
Yes, it matters! What the word of God teaches us about a subject, always trumps our traditions. If you remember the conflicts between Jesus and the Pharisees, you will remember that they centered around the truths Jesus imparted versus the traditions of the Pharisees and of men. Also, as Christians, we are honored bound to teach the truth regardless of what is popular. Going back to my students in the introduction, they seemed to be really disappointed that they had not been told the truth about the birth of Jesus.
When we purposefully lie, we cause words of truth to be looked at with skepticism. Telling the truth, even when it isn’t comfortable is what we are called to do. Especially about the things of God.
No, it doesn’t matter. The fact that we celebrate Jesus’ birth is a beautiful thing. It has become commercialized and is filled with many traditions that have absolutely nothing to do with His birth, but the world stops once a year and commemorates that He was born. Keeping things, even celebrations, in the proper context, helps with the genuine faith we have in the Lord!
Here’s what we can all agree upon, whether we choose to celebrate His birth in December, or on another day of the year, He was born. And on the night that He was born, Mary was in a barn because there was no room for her in the inn. After she gave birth to Jesus, she wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger.
This night, was a holy night. A precious night.
For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.Isaiah 9:6 NKJV
Gabriel said to Mary:
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.Luke 1:35 NKJV
The Holy Spirit came upon Mary, and she brought forth the Holy One who is the Son of God. This makes His night of birth, a holy night. Enjoy this rendition of “O Holy Night” by Mariah Carey. Wonderful Jesus!