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 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.
John 3:16 says, “For God so loved that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” At Christmas we remember the birth of Jesus. Jesus’ birth is of universal importance because Jesus is God who set aside His Divine prerogatives, clothed Himself in humanity and suffered the punishment of man’s sin so men can be saved. John 3:16 famously describes Jesus as the “only begotten Son.” That Jesus is begotten of God may seem to be at odds with the Biblical doctrine that Jesus is the eternal God. If Jesus is the eternally existent God, in what way is He begotten of God?
Psalm 2:7 presents a powerful promise of the coming Messiah. God comforts His servant David with the promises He will establish His own Son as King of Jerusalem who will reign over all the earth. The Messianic promise of God is certified by the Divine decree, “Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten Thee.” In the New Testament Paul declares that Jesus is the Son decreed by God in Psalm 2. The begottenness of Jesus is the eternal decree of God to establish God the Son as the Messiah of Israel who would reign as King over the entire earth.
John 1:14 connects the incarnation- God the Son’s taking to Himself humanity- with His being begotten. Jesus is begotten of God in His birth into the world. Jesus was not conceived by natural means but by the power of God uniquely working to generate a child. Jesus’ begottenness is the working of God to miraculously create a body for the Son within Mary’s womb. His begottenness is in the working of God to send the Son of God, the seed of woman, into humanity to become the Savior of man.
God the Son is the eternally existent God who created all things. He is fully God and equal with the Father in existence, eternality, infinity, majesty, power and glory. The begottenness of Jesus does not imply the least inferiority. The begottenness of Jesus does not imply a point in eternity in which the Father existed alone without the Son or the Spirit. Jesus is described as begotten because of the Divine decree that the Son would take upon Himself humanity. Through His humanity Jesus would become the Savior of those who trust Him and He would be the conquering King that would rule all the earth. Jesus is begotten in His human personage and in His Messianic work. God the Son did not spring into existence on Christmas day (or nine months before His birth). God the Son has no source nor origination. The Son of God is fully God, the second person of the Trinity, who shares entirely in the identical, eternal essence and existence of the Triune Godhead.