By John Stormer
For too many years, pastors and teachers have said, “Of course we don’t know when Christ was actually born – but the time of year is not really important.” Jehovah’s Witnesses and others have taught that Christmas was “invented” in the fourth or fifth centuries. The supposed goal was giving a “Christian” facade or influence to the wild pagan or Satanic holiday observances during the winter solstice (the shortest days of the year).
What’s the real story? Is there any real evidence that Jesus Christ was born at Christmas? A careful examination of a number of seemingly unrelated Bible passages gives clear indication that the Lord Jesus was indeed born at Christmas time. Such study will give new emphasis to what Christ came to do. It will also provide a much deeper appreciation of all that is hidden in the Word of God which can be discovered by those who prayerfully search the scriptures.
Every word in the Bible is there because God put it there. He has a purpose for every one of His words. Therefore, seemingly casual listing of periods of time, genealogical references, etc. have significance which can be discovered through prayerful study.
In Luke Chapter 1, the Bible records seemingly unimportant details about what a priest named Zacharias was doing when an angel announced to him that he and his wife were to have a child. The child was to be John the Baptist who would prepare the way for the Messiah, Jesus Christ. The Bible further records that the Lord Jesus was conceived in the sixth month after John the Baptist was conceived. Therefore, if the time of the conception of John the Baptist could be determined, the birth date of the Lord Jesus could be calculated.
The scriptures say : “There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth. And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest’s office before God in the order of his course… ” Luke 1:5,8.
At this point Zacharias demonstrated his amazing faithfulness to his duties as a priest. Even though he had been given the wonderful news by the angel that he and Elisabeth would have a son, Zacharias stayed in the temple until the days of his course were completed.
“And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house. And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months…” Luke 1:23-24.
The passage then describes how an angel came to Mary to announce that she was to be the virgin mother of the Messiah, the Lord Jesus. The scripture says: “And in the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth. To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary…” Luke 1:26-27.
“And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Judah; and entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth.” Luke 1:39-40
Contained within these quoted passages are scriptures which point to the exact time when Jesus was born. (Remember that God puts every word and every detail into the Bible exactly as He wants it and for a purpose.)
In Luke 1:5 and Luke 1:8, we are told that Zacharias was a priest of the course of Abia and that he fulfilled his priestly duties in the order of his course. To understand the importance of the course of Abia and its bearing on the date of John the Baptist’s conception, it is necessary to turn to 1Chronicles 24:1-10. This passage describes how a thousand years before Christ, King David established the courses for priestly service in the coming temple. Twenty-four courses were established and numbered by drawing lots – twelve courses for sanctuary service and twelve for the government of the house of God.
Members of each course would serve during a month starting with the Hebrew month of Nisan. (Because of the way the Hebrew calendar fluctuates, the month Nisan can start anytime between early March and early April.) The sons of Abijah (the Old Testament spelling for Abia) were in the eighth course. Priests of Abia like Zacharias would, therefore, have each ministered for some days during the eighth month which in some years because of the fluctuation in the Hebrew calendar started as early as the fifth day of our month of October. Zacharias would have returned home when his days of service were accomplished and John the Baptist could have been conceived sometime between October 15 and the end of the month.
After conception the scripture says that Elisabeth hid herself for five months. Then in the sixth month of her pregnancy (which, based on the above calculation, would have started about March 15 and continued until April 15) the angel announced to the Virgin Mary that the Lord Jesus would be conceived in her womb by the Holy Ghost. If this took place on or about April 1 a “normal” gestation period of 270 days would have then had the Lord Jesus due on or about December 25. How about that!
There are other scriptural and natural indicators that confirm that the Lord was born at Christmas time. In the account of His birth in Luke 2:8, we read: “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.”
My son-in-law, who has a degree in agriculture, after hearing the above presentation, told me, “Certainly, the Lord Jesus was born at Christmas. The only time shepherds spend the night in the fields with their sheep is during the time when the lambs are born. The ewes become ‘attractive’ to the rams in the month after June 21, the longest day of the year. The normal gestation period is five months so the ewes start lambing about mid-December.” He added: Isn’t it natural that the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world would be born when all the other lambs are born?
This “coincidence” was too amazing for me to accept until I checked it out. A former teacher from the school where I am the administrator is married to a Montana sheep rancher. She confirmed what I had been told. She said, “Oh, yes! None of the men who have flocks are in church for weeks at Christmas. They have to be in the fields day and night to clean up and care for the lambs as soon as they are born or many would perish in the cold.”
Isn’t that neat? God’s Lamb, who was to die for the sins of the world, was born when all the other little lambs are born. Because He came and died the centuries old practice of sacrificing lambs for sin could end.
There is another neat confirmation that God had His Son born at Christmas. The days at the end of December are the shortest (and therefore the darkest days) of the year. Jesus Christ said, “I am the light of the world.” So at the time of the year when the darkness is greatest, God the Father sent God the Son to be the Light of the world.
The Lord Jesus Christ came to earth, lived a sinless life and was therefore qualified to pay the penalty for the sins of all mankind (which is death). He paid it all – but all do not benefit from the wondrous gift God bestowed on mankind at Christmas.
“He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” John 1:11-12
(John Stormer, pastor emeritus, Heritage Baptist Church, Florissant, Mo., from the Pensacola Christian College magazine, The ABeka, Winter 1996.) HT