Jesus' Birth

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Jesus' Birth

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But is the day that is traditionally connected with the Jesus' birth, Christmas Day or December 25th, really Jesus' birth day?

A careful analysis of Scripture clearly indicates that December 25 is an unlikely date for Christ's birth. Here are two primary reasons:

1.We know that shepherds were in the fields watching their flocks at the time of Jesus' birth (Luke 2:7-8).

Shepherds were not in the fields during December. According to Celebrations: The Complete Book of American Holidays, Luke's account "suggests that Jesus may have been born in summer or early fall. Since December is cold and rainy in Judea, it is likely the shepherds would have sought shelter for their flocks at night" (Robert Myers, 1972, p. 309).

Similarly, The Interpreter's One-Volume Commentary (1980) says this passage "would argue against the birth's occurring on Dec. 25 since the weather would not have permitted" shepherds watching over their flocks in the fields at night.

2. Jesus' parents came to Bethlehem to register in a Roman census (Luke 2:1-4). Such censuses were not taken in winter, when temperatures often dropped below freezing and roads were in poor condition. Taking a census under such conditions would have been self-defeating.

Given these facts, how did December 25th become thought of as the day of Jesus' birth? It comes from the Roman church's desire to bring pagans into Christianity. William Walsh says, "The important fact then which I have asked you to get clearly into your head is that the fixing of the date as December 25th was a compromise with paganism" (The Story of Santa Klaus, 1970, p. 62).

If Jesus Christ was not born on December 25, does the Bible indicate when He was born? The biblical accounts point to the fall of the year as the most likely time of Jesus' birth, based on the conception and birth of John the Baptist.

Since Elizabeth (John's mother) was in her sixth month of pregnancy when Jesus was conceived (Luke 1:24-36), we can determine the approximate time of year Jesus was born if we know when John was born. John's father, Zacharias, was a priest serving in the Jerusalem temple during the course of Abijah (Luke 1:5). Historical calculations indicate this course of service corresponded to June 13-19 in that year (E.W. Bullinger, The Companion Bible, 1974, Appendix 179, p. 200).

It was during this time of temple service that Zacharias learned that he and his wife, Elizabeth, would have a child (Luke 1:8-13). After he completed his service and traveled home, Elizabeth conceived (Luke 1:23-24). Assuming John's conception took place near the end of June, adding nine months brings us to the end of March as the most likely time for John's birth. Adding another six months (the difference in ages between John and Jesus) brings us to the end of September as the likely time of Jesus' birth.

Interestingly, Jesus did not tell His disciples to observe the day of Jesus' birth. In fact, His clear instructions to them were regarding a new set of symbols and meaning for the Passover, which took place the night before His crucifixion.

After washing His disciples' feet as He instituted the new Passover symbols, Jesus said to them: "If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed [happy] are you if you do them," (John 13:14-17).

We encourage you to take the Good Shepherd's words seriously and consider whether the celebrations surrounding the traditionally-kept day of Jesus' birth are really what He intended. If He didn't institute Christmas' observance, and He is our Master and Lord, then why should we celebrate Jesus' birth at Christmas?

Rather, if we do what He taught and did Himself, then we will surely receive the reward He promised in John 13:17 – "If you know these things, blessed [happy] are you if you do them."

In contrast to the popularly celebrated holidays, the Bible informs us of specific days of worship—God's annual "feasts" (Leviticus 23:1-2)—that are unknown to most people. Why have these celebrations been replaced? Read more in our free online Bible study booklet, "Holidays or Holy Days – Does It Matter Which We Days We Observe?"