December 25th, the day of celebrating Christ’s birth is a very joyous time for so many of us mortals. “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” as the song goes, and for the very best of reasons. There are so many stories telling and retelling of His birth that it would be redundant, even obnoxious of me to try to retell it yet again; however, if you have questions regarding the story of the Messiahs birth I would suggest reading through the Bible to get as close as possible to a firsthand account. Although there are many Messianic Old Testament prophecies, the most obvious are His foretold coming as represented by His Prophets in such verses as Isaiah 7:14, Isaiah 9:6, Micah 5:2 to New Testament observations as found in Matthew 1:18-25 and 2:1, John 1:14 and Galatians 4:4 and the best account as given in Luke 1:26-38, 2:7-8 and 2:21 with Luke 2:11 perhaps being the most well known, or at least perhaps my favorite, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” KJV
That announcement of the birth of the Messiah, the first born in the flesh of the living Son of the Father of all of us is perhaps the world’s greatest event since its Creation.
There are many more associated versus that tell of things such as the angels visits to His mother and angels telling of His cousin that would become John the Baptist, and to the man what would be known as His Earthly father (though actually His step-father) among other details, but the ones I have given have to do directly with His birth and will suffice for this short column. I will not be covering the heathen German god Oden or the Norse Yule, winter solstice and so forth that influences our current celebrations.
But we all know that December 25th is not the actual date of His birth, don’t we? Or perhaps I am being presumptuous. Let’s take a short look at the history of Christmas to have another look at it. Some other Christian denominations celebrate it on other dates, such as the Eastern Christian churches using the Julian calendar rather than the Gregorian one we use which put it on our January 7th, and others put it on our December 24th or January 19th among others. The date of December 25th 1 AD was supposedly decided as the date of His birth by Dionysius Exiguus and many suggest that this date was actually used to accommodate the pagan Roman celebrations of Saturnalia and the birth of Mithra (god of the unconquerable sun) and her Juvenalia feasts because her birthday at that time was the most sacred pagan holiday for some Romans that they celebrated on December 25th. However, it was about 300 years since His birth before the Roman church kept Christmas and another couple hundred before it was mandated as an official festival. There are so many variations and opinions that I have included only a brief generally regarded version here with some disagreeing even on the advisability to celebrate it at all.
One search pulled up page after page speaking of a quote in Adam Clarke Commentary, volume 5, page 370, New York edition that says “It was custom among Jews to send out their sheep to the deserts about the Passover [early spring], and bring them home at the commencement of the first rain. During the time they were out, the shepherds watched them night and day. As…the first rain began early in the month of March-esvan, which answers to part of our October and November [begins sometime in October], we find that the sheep were kept out in the open country during the whole summer. And as these shepherds had not yet brought home their flocks, it is a presumptive argument that October had not yet commenced, and that, consequently, our Lord was not born on the 25th of December, when no flocks were out in the fields; nor could He have been born later than September, as the flocks were still in the fields by night. On this very ground, the nativity in December should be given up. The feeding of the flocks by night in the fields is a chronological fact…See the quotations from the Talmudists in Lightfoot.”
Luke 2:8 explains that when Christ was born, “there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.” Note that they were “abiding” in the field. This never happened in December. Some articles say it is because of the rainy season is winter so it must have been in the fall, but I disagree. Shepherds never left their flocks out at night without being out with them because of the problem of the wolves and other predators (including man) but usually brought them in at night for better protection. And the only reason that they would be out all night with them was because of the dangers to the sheep was especially bad during the lambing or birthing season which was mainly during the spring time. That is my opinion but yours will most likely vary, and I will not argue the point. The Catholic Encyclopedia takes a firm stance on the fall being when He was born with most people also agreeing with that assessment.
In Luke 2:1-5 we read “1And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.
2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.”
This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria which might help determine the year better, but the point I would like to make is that when you understand old Jewish customs, there is a feast that was celebrated by going to one’s home with one’s family to make the great feast, the first of all Jewish feasts and that is Passover. It stands to reason, at least in my mind, that the Romans would use that advantage to be sure they all went to their home provinces to be counted. As Joseph and Mary’s family were from the town that also birthed King David that would be Bethlehem.
And when is Passover celebrated? “The festival commemorates the deliverance of Israel's first-born from the judgment wrought on those of the Egyptians (Ex. xii. 12-13; comp. Ex. xiii. 2, 12 et seq.), and the wondrous liberation of the Hebrews from Egyptian bondage (Ex. xii. 14-17)” says the Jewish Encyclopedia. It is celebrated in the Hebrew month of Nisan from the 14th of Nisan to the 21st of Nisan which corresponds to the months of March and April of our calendar and the exact date is determined from the first New Moon after Spring Equinox. Since they are to roast a whole lamb for each larger family unit, it seems obvious to me that they would hold large wider family gatherings since there was to be no meat left over. Again, it is my opinion that it must be in the springtime, although as I mentioned earlier, I am definitely in the minority. The exact year of His birth is up for grabs, with most articles I have read suggest 2 or 3 BC as the year based on such things as when historical figures were still alive and possible heavenly events might suggest. I generally just use 1 BC as it is close enough and historically is based on differences in the various calendars that must be taken into account. As I stated, I will not argue my points, but just wanted to establish that He actually, really exists, He is as real as I am and that He is more real than anything else.
I promised to keep this one short, but wanted to get a basis of what is really at stake here; that the Messiah LIVES – He has been born, has given up His life (he was not actually murdered, but has all power over life and death, He GAVE UP His life just as the scriptures said) and He has Risen again as a living, breathing Immortal God that is the King of all Creation and our only way back to the Father. Without Him, all creation is lost.
He is our eldest brother in the spirit, and the only Son of God in the flesh. This fact stands out against all the evils of this world and all the sophistries of the evil one that pretends to the throne of God. He is my God, my Master and my King – the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen
Merry Christmas all!
The Birth of Jesus
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