Tomorrow, millions of Christians around the world celebrate the birth of the One they believe to be the Savior of the world, the Prince of Peace, the Son of God – Jesus of Nazareth.
Jesus is called many things in the Bible. One of His names is the Lamb of God. And while no one is quite sure exactly when Jesus was born, I believe that name may actually lend credence to the birth date of Dec. 25.
I know what you skeptics are going to say. Dec. 25 was chosen by church leaders because it coincided with pagan festivities. It was a way of hijacking those customs and traditions – a way of redeeming them.
But hear me out. I’m going to tell you why I think Dec. 25 could well be the actual birthday of the Messiah. First, let’s review the most descriptive and familiar of the Christmas stories from the Bible.
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 they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years.
And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest’s office before God in the order of his course, According to the custom of the priest’s office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord.
And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense. And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense.
And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.
Luke 1:5-13 KJV
The story continues, with Zacharias remaining in the temple and fulfilling his duties as priest. Only after “the days of his ministration were accomplished” did Zacharias return home, where his wife, Elisabeth, conceived, “and hid herself five months.”
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. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.
And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.
And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?
And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. For with God nothing shall be impossible.
And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her. And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda; And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth.
And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.
Notice the details pointing to the approximate time when Jesus was conceived and born.
“What are you talking about, Farah?” you’re probably asking yourself.
We’ve learned that Zacharias was a priest of the course of Abia and that he fulfilled his duties before going home and impregnating his wife. In I Chronicles 24:1-10, we learn that the priestly duties were established about 1,000 years earlier. They included 24 courses and were numbered by drawing lots – 12 courses for sanctuary service and 12 for the government of the house of God.
Priests would serve during a month starting with the Hebrew months of Nisan, which can begin anytime between early March and early April. The sons of Abija, the Old Testament spelling for Abia, were in the eighth course, which would mean Zacharias would likely have ministered during the eighth month of the Hebrew calendar, starting as early as the fifth day of our month of October. That would place the likely time of John the Baptist’s conception toward the end of October.
Elisabeth then hid herself for five months. Sometime, perhaps, around March 15-April 15, the angel appeared to Mary. For the sake of argument, let’s say this happened on or about April 1. A normal gestation period of 270 days would have resulted in the birth of Jesus on or about Dec. 25.
That is a very plausible scenario. Still not convinced? How about this?
Let’s go back to Luke, Chapter 2, verse 8: “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.”
Shepherds spent the night in the fields with their sheep when the lambs are born. The mating cycle begins after June 21. The normal gestation period is five months, so the ewes start giving birth in mid-December.
And that’s where “the Lamb of God” comes into the picture. Jesus was likened to a lamb who was brought into this world to be slaughtered for our sins. Wouldn’t it make sense that He was born around the same time that the innocent little lambs were being born in the fields nearby?
The more I read the Bible, the more I am stunned by such little “coincidences.” The Bible is full of them. It makes perfect sense to me. I hope you agree.
Yet, it doesn’t really matter exactly when Jesus was born. The important thing today, as we Christians prepare to celebrate that birth, is that He was born – that He did come, that He later laid down His life for us and that He will come again.
Merry Christmas to all of you, dear readers. May the joy of His coming be with you today, tomorrow and for all eternity.