Well . . . probably not.
The image is iconic. A snow covered landscape. A soft-focus night, well lighted by the stars. Especially that great big one–hanging right over the manger–which of course, is beautifully softly candle-lighted. There is peace. There is tranquility. There is love . . . along with little drummer boys, presiding angels, and a fair share of talking animals.
It is the night of the Savior’s birth. December 25th–right?
Is it even possible that December 25th could be the day of Christ’s birth? After all, any day would have a one in three-hundred and sixty-five chance of being correct–right?
Well . . . no.
A careful reading of existing scripture clearly indicates that December 25th is a most unlikely date for Christ’s birth. There are two primary reasons for this.
First, we know that shepherds were in the fields, watching over their flocks at the time. Not something that happens in December in this part of the world. December in Judea is both cold and rainy. Instead of watching over them in the fields, shepherds seek dry and warm shelter during this month. This snippet of scripture suggest a spring, summer, or even autumn date as being far more likely for the holy event.
Second, we know that Jesus’ parents came to Bethlehem to register in a Roman census. Such censuses were not taken in the winter months. It was far too difficult for people to travel during those wet and colds times when dirt roads were not in very good shape. Much more likely in the spring, summer, or fall.
It’s pretty well known that December 25th was a pagan holiday, co-opted for reuse after Jesus’ earthly life was over and Christianity began to grow and spread, and newly minted Christians wanted to celebrate the birth of the savior.
It was a handy date.
Prior to and throughout the early Christian centuries, winter festivals, especially those centered on the winter solstice, were extremely popular in European cultures. After all, what better cure for the wintertime blues than a party? December 25th was a good one, with winter just beginning a few days before. The celebration was a sort of internal psychological fortification against the coming months of darkness, and adverse cold and snowy weather conditions.
Combining the dark of December festival with the birth of Christ–perfect.
But when did the birth actually happen?
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day saints more or less (they don’t advertise it) believes the exact date of Christ’s birth is April 6th. This by a process of divine revelation. Is it accurate? Could be–it definitely fits within the possible timeframes.
Many other biblical scholars pick a later date, based on a careful reading of the Jewish Torah, and a study of the birth date of John the Baptist, of which a little more is known. Seems that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, according to the great book, in the sixth month of John’s mother’s pregnancy. Since we pretty much know when John was born, it is not too difficult to calculate a birth date for Jesus of September 15th.
Is this one correct? Again, it has a good chance of being right, as it also fits within the proper timeframes.
Will we ever know for sure? Well, probably not, at least until we all, one by one, get to pass through the veil and ask him face to face.
That is, assuming we will be facing him and not someone else of a far less benevolent nature.
In the meantime, the 25th of December seems to work just fine . . . for Christians, Muslims, Atheists, and Jews, or just about anyone else that enjoys a really good party, just before the long dark, and dreary months of hard Winter to follow.
It’s only a few weeks away. Hope your preparations are going okay. Mine, well . . . not so much. One of my customers asked me yesterday if I were ready for Christmas. I replied that I wasn’t even ready for last Christmas yet!
But that’s part of the fun. Getting ready, and never quite making it. Here’s hoping you all have a great one–with love of family and friends, way too much wonderful food and treats, and of course, the light of Christ throughout.
Coming up in the next few days . . . a nostalgic look at Christmases past–the ones with well-loved family. Many may be long gone now, but they still live on in our hearts, especially at this time of year.
Maybe it’s time they made a brief (but funny) re-appearance. Could be amusing. We’ll see.
Take care and have a great day now . . .