Was Jesus born on Christmas Day (25th December)?
It can be interesting to check out the things we believe and the reasons why. So, let's
look into the reasons given for a December or alternately an autumn date for Jesus' birth.
Nobody knows exactly on which day Jesus was born. There are though, good arguments for it
being in autumn, based on the cycle of work of John the Baptist's father, and Jesus'
conception being six month's after John was conceived.
When we look into the date that
Zechariah would have been working in the Temple this would have been in early June or
December. Allowing a couple of weeks after his shift in the Temple for when Elizabeth got
pregnant this takes us into late June or December. So six month later when Mary came to
visit Elizabeth at the start of her own pregnancy would have been in late December the
same year or June the following year, depending on which of Zechariah's two yearly stints
at the Temple was involved! Thus after nine montrhs of gestation Jesus would have been
born either in late September or March; autumn or spring!
One argument against 25th December which some people have made, which is not so well
thought out, is that shepherds would not have been watching their flocks
by night in December; because it would have been too cold! It’s most unlikely that
these people have ever been to Bethlehem to check the weather for themselves. What I've
learned is that actually Bethlehem is not usually very cold at Christmas time. As a
result shepherds really do keep their flocks out in December. It seems that to have a
‘white Christmas’ in the Bethlehem area is a very rare occurrence.
The average minimum temperature in December is 6°C (43°F), which is not very cold and
perhaps about what one might imagine around the Mediterranean if one is not at high
altitudes. It is also a lot rainier in the November/December period than in the previous
six months so the grass is lush and so December's a good month for feeding sheep outside.
Of course sheep are also designed by God to cope well in colder weather. They have their
own built in (or should that be, "built-on") blanket of wool! This keeps them warm even in
snowy weather, and the lanolin in the wool means that any moisture on the wool does not
penetrating down to their skin to cause pneumonia.
You may remember that Jacob tended Laban’s flocks outdoors even when the nights were
frosty according to Genesis 31:38–40. They lived in colder climes to the north of
Bethlehem, in Haran, and it would probably have been a lot colder than in the area of
Also, if sheep are kept indoors in cold weather they are more likely to catch pneumonia
due to the build-up in barns of moisture and conditions that promote the spread of viruses.
Sheep (they say) are much healthier living outdoors, provided they can shelter from winter
winds, such as by means of a few trees or man made shelters/wind breaks. It would also be
very labour-intensive to provide all the water and grass for a large flock of sheep in
barns. Better to let them run around outside and look after themselves!
So why did they pick December 25th?
1. Apparently many avatars were born at that time so it would lend Christianity a way to
convert pagans to following Christ. I would have thought it better to teach the truth but
having lots of converts and the money they bring may have been hard for the Western
church to resist!
2. Another reason it seems is that the early Christians could have chosen 25th December as
Jesus’ birthday is because of the idea that, "in Jesus' conception is the seed of His death".
So the date of His conception would be that also of His passion. Since Jesus was believed to
have died on the 25th March, this would make His conception date also the 25th March and His
birth could therefore be calculated to be the 25th December.
Since Jesus’ death was calculated as 6th April by the Eastern Church, this same
date was celebrated as the date Christ was conceived by them and hence in the Eastern
Orthodox arena Jesus' birth is celebrated as 6th January. That's another theory!
We find also that many branches of the Western Church celebrate ‘Epiphany’ on
6th January now, to commemorate the arrival of the Magi and their three kinds of gifts.
The gap between these two dates gives us the twelve days of christmas!
The 25th December was already being used to celebrate the date of Jesus' birth in the
late 2nd and early 3rd century according to the records it seems. So we find that
Christians were celebrating Christ’s birth on 25th December over 70 years before the
Romans copied that date for their Sol Invictus, or ‘Unconquered Sun’ festival.
And, interestingly, for some who believe that Jesus was born in the autumn, they will
often celebrate 25th December as the date of His conception; ie, 9 months earlier!
Thus two sets of believers have their reasons for a celebration on the 25th of December.
If the whole point is to spread the gospel and bring glory to Jesus it would not be
a totally bad thing!
And, if you celebrate His birth in the autumn, you do well if you
also use it to glorify Christ and preach the gospel!
wishes for grace and the peace of Jesus.
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