Sunday, February 22, 2015

Christ's Birthday? I Think Not!

  I hope you are as intrigued by this blog entry as I am in writing it. Before I proceed any further though allow me to set the stage. The information that follows is not the result of my own research, instead it is a theory proposed to me one day by Terry Rikard, the minister at the Mebane St. church of Christ. My contribution is relegated to A) editing and rewriting the information in a way that hopefully flows well and B) publishing it here on my blog.

  Was Jesus born on December 25? I believe any person who has studied the Bible at all can attest to the fact that the Bible nowhere states that Jesus Christ was born on December 25th. Through a careful study and assimilation of the scriptures though, as well as a knowledge of Jewish history, customs and traditions we can put together a clearer picture of when Christ was truly born.
  For our purposes the story of the birth of Christ begins with Zacharias (also spelled Zechariah), the father of John the Baptist. According to the gospel of Luke, Zacharias was a priest from the division of Abijah (Luke 1:5).  During the Second Temple period each of the priestly divisions (there were 24) served in the temple at Jerusalem on a rotation basis. The division of Abijah would have been in service roughly between the middle to end of Sivan or our June and ended sometime between the 19th to the 25th of Sivan (June). At some point before the end of his service in the temple the angel Gabriel appeared to Zacharias, telling him his wife Elizabeth would have a child (Luke 1:11-20).
  When Zacharias finished his service in the temple he returned home to his wife and she became pregnant (Luke 1:23-24). So from this we can deduce that John the Baptist was conceived around the end of June.
   Now let's change scenes to the tiny town of Nazareth and look at the virgin Mary, cousin to Elizabeth and fiance of Joseph. Once again Luke tells us that the angel Gabriel re-appears, this time to Mary (Luke 1:26)  and tells her she will have a son, and He will be called, “Son of the Most High.” Mary is wondering how this can be, since she is a virgin. The angel tells her, "The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month..." (Luke 1:35-37). Now if John was conceived in in late June and Jesus was conceived 6 months later, this means that Jesus would have been conceived around the Feast of Dedication or Hanukah, (our Christmas) or the end of December. John also tells us this Feast of Dedication is in the winter (John 10:22)  and Jesus himself tells us winter is not a suitable time for travel, (Matthew 24:20). So from this we can assume that shepherds would not be in the open fields tending their flocks, especially at night, because the temperature would likely be to cold be in the open fields during winter. Since Luke tells us there were shepherds abiding in the field keeping watch over their flock at night (Luke 2:8).
  Now if Jesus was conceived around the Feast of Dedication he would have been born around nine months later which puts his birth at mid to late September. This timing is important because it corresponds to Succoth, or the Feast of Booths. What exactly is the Feast of Booths? Lets look at Deuteronomy 16:16:
"Three times in a year all your males shall appear before the LORD your God in the place which He chooses, at the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Passover, this is when Jesus died) and at the Feast of Weeks (which is also known as Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was poured out) and at the Feast of Tabernacles (This is also known as the "Feast of Booths) and they shall not appear before the LORD empty-handed.”  The book of Genesis further explains 'Succoth' or 'Booths' when it says "Jacob journeyed to Succoth and built for himself a house and made booths for his livestock; therefore the place is named Succoth" (Genesis 33:17). Therefore Succoth is another name for booths and one purpose of a booth is to serve as a shelter for livestock. Of course another name for a shelter for livestock is the more familiar term "manger." If, as this theory proposes, Jesus was born in September during the Feast of the Booths, there would have been multitude of booths, most housing livestock, available for Mary and Joseph to take shelter in just as Luke describes saying " shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger." (Luke 2:12).
  So, from the information presented it can be safely assumed that Christ was born in late September or there-abouts. If you believe this, and I personally do, it begs the question "Is it important?" The answer is "no." You see there are two reasons why the date of Christs birth is not an binding event for Christians to celebrate.
  First, nowhere in the Bible is a command given, either explicit or implied, to celebrate the birth of Christ. Secondly, he importance of birthdays is greatly diminished and put into proper perspective when the Old Testament tells us "A good name [is] better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one's birth" (Ecclesiastes 7:1). This doesn't mean we should not celebrate birthdays, only that it is not significant in perspective of our entire lives.
  I myself have never celebrated the birth of Christ at Christmas time, instead December 25th has always been a date my family has chosen to use as a day of celebrating family, love and friendships. Celebrating Christs birthday on December 25th as a religious holiday is erroneous however celebrating Christs birthday on December 25th as a means of teaching Christ is quite acceptable. There is a difference.
  One thing we can all agree on though - no matter what your standing on celebrating Christmas it is a season of joy, love and family.
  Merry Christmas!