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When Was Jesus Born?

Weekly Devotionals

When Was Jesus Born?

As I write this during the Advent and as you may be reading this devotion on Christmas Day, I have a confession to make.  I have a very hard time getting into the Christmas spirit.  The reason for this is that I believe that Jesus was not actually born on December 25.  I hope this does not come as a huge surprise.  I first became aware of this in college when I was a history major with a focus on 12th century Europe.  December 25 is around the day of the Winter Solstice, also known as midwinter, Yule, the “extreme of winter” (Dongzhi), or the “shortest day”.  The Winter Solstice is an astronomical phenomenon marking the day with the shortest period of daylight and the longest night of the year.  Throughout history, many civilizations are known to have had celebrations and deity worship on and around the Winter Solstice, which generally has signified rebirth (as in rebirth of the Sun).  The Yule (Jul) god was Jólner, which is one of Odin’s many names. The concept of Yule occurs in a tribute poem to Harold Hårfager from about AD 900, where someone said “drinking Jul”. Julblot is the most solemn sacrifice feast. At the “julblotet”, sacrifices were given to the gods to earn blessing on the forthcoming germinating crops. Julblotet was eventually integrated into the Christian Christmas. The pagan Scandinavian and Germanic people of northern Europe celebrated a twelve-day “midwinter” (winter solstice) holiday called Yule (also called Jul, Julblot, jólablót, midvinterblot, julofferfest). Many modern Christmas traditions, such as the Christmas tree, the Christmas wreath, the Yule log, and others, are direct descendants of Yule customs. (source: Wikipedia, “Winter Solstice”)

Is it a coincidence or supernatural phenomenon that Jesus was born during this time?  What does the Bible say?  For this we turn to Luke 1: 5 – 33 starting with Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist.

In the interest of time and space, I will outline key points and their corresponding Bible verses.  I will provide links at the bottom on this post for you to read and research in more detail.

  • Zacharias was of the division of Abijah (1 Chronicles 24:6-19),  which served in the temple during the 10th week of the priestly cycle, which runs approximately from mid-May to mid-June.

5 In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.8 Now it happened that while he was performing his priestly service before God in the appointed order of his division, 9 according to the custom of the priestly office, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were in prayer outside at the hour of the incense offering. 11 And an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. 12 Zacharias was troubled when he saw the angel, and fear gripped him. 13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John. 14 You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth.

  • John the Baptist was conceived shortly after his service in the Temple.

23 When the days of his priestly service were ended, he went back home. 24 After these days Elizabeth his wife became pregnant, and she kept herself in seclusion for five months, saying, 25 “This is the way the Lord has dealt with me in the days when He looked with favor upon me, to take away my disgrace among men.”

  • Jesus was conceived/born approximately 6 months after John the Baptist.

26 Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. 30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; 33 and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.”

  • If John the Baptist was conceived mid-late June, then he was born around March.  If Jesus was born 6 months later, then his birthday falls around September.

I’m not at all saying that the church should abandon the lighting of the advent candles and singing of carols and Christmas service. For me, however, in my endeavor to focus on Christ during this time, despite the traditions, has led me to this truth.  Likewise, I encourage and challenge all believers to focus on Christ during this holiday season and every day so that we may be truly anchored in His Word and test for ourselves what we know and what we think we know about our dear Savior King.

God bless you, Jubilee Church!

Resources

http://www.bibleinfo.com/en/questions/when-was-jesus-born

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Date_of_birth_of_Jesus