December 25th. A day remembered throughout America by nearly everyone. Even those who deny the historicity of Jesus, question the worth of His life, reject Christianity or call the Christmas season the “winter holidays” recognize that December 25 is the traditional date of Jesus’ birth. Is that true? Does the Bible tell us when Jesus was born?
The Bible gives little specific information about the time of the birth of Jesus. Contrary to the popular Christmas carols, we don’t even know for certain if Jesus was born at night or in the middle of the day (though night does seem more likely since the angels appeared to the shepherds at night). We don’t know the year in which Jesus was born, much less the month or day of His birth. The Bible does give a couple clues as to the time of His birth. Some have surmised that because the shepherds were in the fields fields at night when the angels appeared, Jesus probably wasn’t born in the cold winter months. We know from Luke 1 that Mary conceived sometime around the sixth month of her cousin Elizabeth’s pregnancy. Because John the Baptist’s father was a Levite and the Levites served in the temple according to a fixed rotation, a rotation that history has preserved for us, we can make other surmises about the date of Christ’s birth. Luke tells us that John the Baptist was conceived after his father’s time of service in the temple, which would probably have been sometime around the beginning of the Jewish New Year. Adding everything together, Jesus’ birth would have been about 15 months after John the Baptist conception. After some juggling of the calendars to correct for differences between our 365 day year and the calendar of the Jews, some have concluded Jesus was most likely born in May or June. Despite diligent research and careful calculation, every consideration still assumes a lot of details that the Bible just doesn’t provide. In the end, any fixing of a day, month or season of the year for Jesus’ birth is speculative. We just don’t know when Jesus was born.
The precise date of His birth is not at all significant. What is significant is that Jesus is the promised Savior who was born just as God had promised and did all that God determined for Him to do. Jesus’ birth is the entrance of Deity into humanity, the robing of God in the flesh of man so that God the Son would become mankind’s substitute and suffer the infinite penalty of sin instead of men. Jesus’ birth is not the climax of history. His birth is just the beginning of a long dark road that led inexorably to Calvary and redemption for men.