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Preaching the Gospel, Preparing a People

When Was Jesus Born? Part 2

Was Jesus born on December 25? Can we even know when He was born? And most importantly, does it even really matter when Jesus was born?

Jesus was born in the autumn of the year

This all begs the question: Just when was Jesus born?

We find important clues about the real time of His birth in what the Bible tells us about His cousin, John the Baptist.

Maybe you've read the Gospel of Luke and thought it was strange that the book begins not with the story of the conception of Jesus, but with the story of the conception of John the Baptist. There's a very good reason Luke was sure to tell us in very specific detail when John was conceived and born.

Luke tells us that John's mother Elizabeth was six months pregnant when Jesus was conceived: "In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to . . . a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary . . ." (Luke 1:24-36).

Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, and Mary, the mother of Jesus, were cousins. From this passage we know that John was six months older than Jesus. So we can discover the approximate time of year Jesus was born if we know when John was born.

Let's look at what the Bible says about the time of John's birth.

John's father Zacharias was a priest serving the temple at Jerusalem in "the division of Abijah" (Luke 1:5). At this time, the temple priests in Jerusalem were divided into different "divisions" or "courses"–groups of priests that would take turns performing temple service during the year. This formed a yearly schedule for those serving at the temple.

Historians calculate that the course of Abijah, during which Zacharias served, was on duty around early to mid-June (see The Companion Bible, 1974, Appendix 179, p. 200).

During Zechariah's temple service, the angel Gabriel appeared to him and announced that he and his wife Elizabeth would have a child (Luke 1:8-13). After he completed his service and traveled home, Elizabeth conceived the cousin of Jesus–the child who would later become known as John the Baptist (Luke 1:23-24).

Considering that John's conception likely took place later in June, when Zechariah returned home after completing his service in the division of Abijah, adding nine months brings us to around late March as the most likely time for John's birth.

Adding another six months–the difference in ages between John and Jesus (Luke 1:35-36)–brings us to about late September as the likely time of Jesus' birth.

Does Christmas really honor Christ?

So if it can be shown from the Bible and some historical research that Jesus was born in the autumn of the year instead of December, does that mean we should keep Christmas in September instead of December?

No, it doesn't! Nowhere in the Bible do we find any instruction or command to celebrate Christ's birth. The fact that so many specific dates are given in the Bible about other important and less important events, while this exact date remains vague, is significant!

God didn't call for an annual celebration of Jesus' birth. God does give us other specific days to observe that honor Jesus Christ and the Father. For those who love God and His Son it's only natural to desire to worship Them. But it's far better to do this on the days and times God has set rather than to invent our own days and times!

As for the celebration of Christmas in December, remember what we read earlier about the Roman church adopting pagan practices into the Christian faith to create Christmas. Jesus wouldn't want us to celebrate pagan days to honor His birth.

How do we know what Jesus would or would not want us to do in this regard? God makes it very clear that He doesn't like pagan worship practices being used to honor Him. He told the ancient Israelites: "When the Lord your God cuts off from before you the nations which you go to dispossess, and you displace them and dwell in their land, take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, 'How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.' You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way . . . whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it" (Deuteronomy 12:29-32, emphasis added).

Jesus' coming brought us many things

We should of course be grateful that Jesus Christ was born–it's a joyous event that brought us many things.

He showed us how to have a relationship with God the Father. We see His example of a perfect life, perfect sacrifice and His resurrection back to spirit life. He showed us the way for man to have the opportunity to share His glory and life forever in the family of God. He came to form a new relationship with man that, through His blood, extends to all nations. He came to become our High Priest and intercede before God's throne for us.

Through Him we can have an authentic and fulfilling relationship with God based on truth and love. And if we truly love Him, we will show Him love the way He wants to be loved. To love God we should do as He asks; "But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him" (1 John 2:5; compare John 14:15,21; 15:10).

By not obeying God we are missing out on a closer relationship with Him. Christmas traditions, nearly all of which can be traced back to pre-Christian false religions (as nearly any good encyclopedia or a quick Internet search will verify) obscure these wonderful truths and keep us from a stronger relationship with God.

Christ was not born on Dec. 25, in the dead of winter. Celebrating this date of His birthday doesn't change the fact. And God never gave us instruction to observe Christ's birth annually in any fashion.

Instead of holding to a wrong day and a wrong idea, isn't it time you focus on why He was born? And shouldn't you be observing and discovering the meaning of the days He Himself instituted and observed? Build a better relationship with God starting today!

Download or request your free copy of Jesus Christ: The Real Story today to see what the Bible really says! And also request the free study guide Holidays or Holy Days: Does It Matter Which Days We Observe? Available at www.GNmagazine.org/booklets.

- Darris McNeeley

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