Time, Truth, and Wisdom
CHAPTER 15--December 25th, the Birthday of Jesus Christ?
Let’s start out with an interesting fact about Christmas that all of us can relate to. Why do some people use “Xmas” instead of Christmas? Are they too lazy to spell out the entire word; are they agnostics that just can’t stand to use the word, Christ? Are they taking Christ out of Christmas?
Not at all. In the early Greek versions of the New Testament, the Septuagint, the letter “X” or “chi” is the first letter of the word Christ and since the mid 16th century has been used as an abbreviation of Christ. It’s not an example of commercialism or paganism.
What about the Yule log? Scandinavia would celebrate, between December and early January, a festival called “Yule”. It was to honor the god of thunder, Thor, and they would burn a log and every spark that went up into the air was to represent a new pig or calf that would be born in the spring. It was supposed to indicate good fortune. It was a pagan celebration.
Basically, winter celebrations around the northern hemisphere began in mid-December and ended in early January. And they were quite simple to understand. The summer harvest was complete, the animals had been slaughtered, everyone had a good supply of food and because of this everyone would have enough supplies for the winter and they would settle in for a few months with little to do until the spring.
Some say that no one knows why December 25 was chosen as the holiday but there is good reason to believe that the Romans celebrated the birthday of Mithras, the god of the unconquerable sun, on this date.
As the mythological story goes Mithras was an infant god who was born of a rock and Mithras’ birthday was one of the most sacred days of the year. Quite the reason that many people refer to Christmas as a pagan holiday, which today it certainly is not.
The birth of Jesus was not celebrated in the early years of Christianity. Easter was a more important holiday. It wasn’t until the fourth century that the church leaders decided to celebrate the birth of Christ.
Although the Bible does not mention the exact day that Christ was born, Bible scholars have determined that the year of His birth to be that of 4 B.C. and not the year 0 (zero). Is it important to know that? Does it matter if Christ was born in the year 4 B.C. or not?
Not really because, and this is a simplistic explanation, the year of the birth of Christ was assigned the year zero and any years prior to this time were labeled as B. C. or Before Christ and any years after the fact were labeled A. D. or Anno Domini or the “year of our Lord”.
A new system for designating the year part of a date that is used worldwide is known as the Common Era or CE. BC has been replaced by BCE (Before Common Era) and AD has been replaced by CE (Common Era.)
Many people will disagree that there is a year 0 in the Gregorian calendar that we use, citing that there is only a year 0 in the Buddhist and Hindu calendars.
They argue that it should be regarded as the year 1, giving us 1 B.C. and going immediately to 1 A.D. It doesn’t really matter if Christ was born in the year 0 or 1 or 4 B.C. or 7 B.C., the important fact is that he was born, incarnate and in the flesh.
Before we fix the actual dates of the conception and birth of Christ let me talk about the difference between the Jewish calendar and the Gregorian calendar that most of the Western world uses.
The Gregorian calendar was devised to closely approximate the actual length of time that it takes for the Earth to make one revolution around the sun. This is called a tropical year. It is based on a cycle of 400 years of 146,097 days giving an average length of one year as 365.24 days.
This poses a problem because you can’t have a day whose length is only 0.24 days so they came up with the idea of a leap year. Let’s throw all of those 0.24 days together until we get a full day, we’ll add it to the month of February and we’ll call it a leap year. Usually, we think that a leap year will occur every four years but this is not always the case.
A year is not a leap year if it can be:
1) divided by 4;
2) if it can be divided by 100 but not by 400.
Only then is it a leap year. For example, the year 1900 can be divided by 100 to produce an even number but it cannot be divided by 400 and produce an even number; it will have a decimal fraction. Are you confused yet?
Trust me, in 1852 when the switch from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar was about to happen it was bitterly opposed by much of the population because they feared that it was a scheme by the landlords to cheat them out of a week and a half’s rent.
The Jewish calendar is based on three factors: the rotation of the Earth about its’ axis; the revolution of the moon about the Earth and the revolution of the Earth about the sun. After coordinating all three factors a month can be 29 or 30 days while the Gregorian calendar is 28, 30 or 31 days.
Corresponding to a month that contains 29 ½ days in a lunar cycle a Jewish year is 354 days long, as opposed to a solar year which is 365 days, and can be either 12 or 13 months.
I point this out because if you look at the Jewish month of Iyar, its equivalent in the Gregorian calendar will cover part of April and part of May. The Jewish month of Tishri will cover part of the months of September and October.
So, as we fix the date concerning the birth of Christ don’t get all lathered-up and tell me that the month is wrong. I could also bring up the fact that there are two Jewish calendars; one is civil and one is religious; one being 6 months different from the other, but I won’t go there.
Oh, one more point of interest: generally speaking, a month in Scripture is usually regarded as 30 days, not 28, 29 or 31.
At the outset, I’m going to correlate the Jewish timeline with the days and months that we are familiar with to avoid the confusion of having to continually point out Jewish/Gregorian times. Let’s go to the Gospel of Luke.
Luke 1:5 There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth.
Zacharias was a priest of the Tribe of Levi and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron which also made her a part of the priest Tribe. The twelve tribes had grown in population to the extent that they could not all attend services at the Temple at the same time so King David, the second king of the united kingdom, divided the sons of Aaron into 24 groups called “courses” to create an orderly way of everyone fulfilling their obligation to worship at the temple.
The first course began at the start of the Jewish year, in the spring, in the month of Nisan. Each course would begin and end on a Sabbath, making the obligation of the priest, his service in the Temple, to be a time of one week. Each course was repeated twice in any year along with the three major feast days.
The course of Abia, the 8th course of the year, would fall in the week of June 13-19. June the 13th would be a Sabbath and Zacharias would serve seven days with the eighth day being the next consecutive Sabbath.
Luke 1:6 And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.
They were both righteous in the eyes of God, having followed all of His commandments.
Luke 1:7 And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years.
They were both well beyond the normal child-bearing years.
Luke 1:8 And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest’s office before God in the order of his course,
Luke 1:9 According to the custom of the priest’s office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord.
Luke 1:And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense.
One of Zacharias’s duties in the temple was to burn incense before the multitude of people and there was a bunch of them. And while he was in the Temple performing his duties:
Luke 1:11 And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense.
Now, this was no ordinary angel, this was the angel Gabriel and his name, in the Hebrew, is “man of God”. If you can envision the power that our Father possesses in His right and left hand you would see Gabriel and the archangel Michael. One word from our Father and these two angels instantly obeyed, no questions asked.
Luke 1:12 And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.
Luke 1:12 But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.
Obviously, Zacharias and Elizabeth had wanted a son but over the years her womb had been barren and now they were “stricken in years”, they were both too old, or so they thought, and then this angel shows up and tells them that she will give birth to a son and that they should name him John. Perhaps our Father, in His wisdom, wanted Elizabeth to remain barren just for this specific pregnancy. After all, she was going to give birth to John the Baptist.
Luke 1:14 And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth.
Luke 1:15 For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb.
Our Father will take the human desire to drink alcohol away from John and fill him with the Holy Spirit because He has intervened in his life and God has a purpose for him.
Luke 1:16 And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God.
Luke 1:17 And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
To put the seal of Almighty God in their forehead; to prepare for things to come.
Luke 1:18 And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years.
This is incredulous, how can this happen to me?
Luke 1:19 And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God;
Don’t overlook that: I am Gabriel that stands in the presence of God.
and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings.
Luke 1:20 And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.
Gabriel told him that because of his disbelief that this event could possibly happen, he would be struck dumb until the pregnancy was over.
Luke 1:21 And the people waited for Zacharias, and marveled that he tarried so long in the temple.
What’s taking this boy so long?
Luke 1:22 And when he came out, he could not speak unto them: and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple: for he beckoned unto them, and remained speechless.
He kept making signs to them but he couldn’t make them understand what had happened.
Luke 1:23 And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house.
Let’s catch the timeline up....... his week in the Temple is over and this would be on June 19th. The following day would be the Sabbath and he could not travel on that day so he would wait until a day later and that would be on June 21st.
Luke 1:24 And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying,
Luke 1:25 Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men.
Zacharias, it is presumed, lived in the city of Hebron, approximately nineteen miles southwest of Jerusalem and for someone in his age bracket it probably took around two days to walk home and after resting a day Elizabeth probably conceived on June 24th. This is speculation, of course, concerning the date of conception, but people are people and we don’t normally deviate from common routines.
Luke 1:26 And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,
Luke 1:27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.
Luke 1: 28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.
Luke 1:29 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.
Luke 1:30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.
Luke 1: 31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.
Luke 1: 32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:
Luke 1: 33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
Luke 1: 34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?
Mary is concerned because she and Joseph had not yet married nor had they “known” each other. Get my drift? She and Joseph were simply betrothed, engaged if you would.
Luke 1: 35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
Luke 1: 36 And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.
Elizabeth is six months pregnant with John the Baptist when her cousin Mary went to give her the good news and if you add six months to June 24th the timeline will be December 24th – 25th to document the conception of Christ.
Luke 1:37 For with God nothing shall be impossible.
Luke 1:38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.
Luke 1: 39 And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda;
Luke 1: 40 And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth.
Luke 1:41 And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost:
The babe leaped in her womb. Mary had conceived just a day or two earlier and yet John, at six months in Elizabeth’s womb, felt the presence of the Spirit of God in her womb and leaped for joy. If there has ever been any doubt in your mind as to when a fetus is a viable human being this should relieve it.
The issue of abortion in this country boils down to just two viewpoints: those that are Pro-Choice believe that a fetus is not human and is nothing more than a mass of tissue.
Those that are Pro-Life believe that a fetus is a human being and that life begins at the moment of conception. The objective of these two differing sides is very clear cut: Pro-Choice advocates want the legal right to abort the unborn fetus while Pro-Lifers want that legal right taken away to protect the life of the unborn child.
The ongoing controversy of abortion involves the legality of it all. In January of 1973, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled on the case of Roe v Wade that a woman had the right to an abortion and this decision overrode any and all State laws.
This decision simply insured that a woman would not go to jail for aborting an unborn fetus, whether it had reached the age of 28 weeks or not. In essence, the law of the land, the opinion of the Federal Government allowed a woman to have an abortion.
According to the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, there are 42 million abortions worldwide every year which comes to almost 115,000 per day.
According to Californiaprofile.org, there were 35 million fetuses aborted from 1973 through 1997 here in the United States. That comes out to 1.5 million babies every year.
I don’t see any need for giving you any further statistics; I think that the above two speak for themselves as to the enormity of the situation.
In my own mind, I have some pretty definite opinions on the practice of abortion and it is not my place to judge or point fingers or accuse but I will make this one statement: when an unborn fetus is killed you take away every opportunity for God to use the soul and spirit in that human being to do His will in this heaven/earth age.
You have taken away everything that that human being could ever have been or ever have accomplished.
Our Father breathed a soul and spirit into that fertilized egg at the moment of conception and John could sense it.
According to one Biblical scholar: Christ was conceived, begotten of the Holy Spirit, on the 1st of Tebeth or December 25, 5 B.C. Christ was born, the Word became flesh, on the 15th of Ethanim or September 29, 4 B.C.
Christ was born on the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles. He will be crucified on the first day of Passover. I believe that these two dates are very important in prophecy and later on in this book I will attempt to explain that.
Even though December 25th is NOT the birthday of Jesus Christ, it is still the day that He began to tabernacle with us, His physical presence was on this earth for the very first time in all of history.
Something else to consider is that here in Georgia our latitude is approximately 33 degrees and if you look at a world atlas you can see that the Middle East is about the same latitude which means that the seasons of the year would be fairly close in the Middle East as those that we experience here in Georgia.
Winter in Georgia should equate to winter in Israel. If Christ was indeed born in the month of December it would be winter time in Israel and I doubt very seriously that the shepherds would have their sheep grazing in the desert at that time of the year. There would be precious little for the sheep to eat in mid-summer, much less in mid-winter.
Even though the beginnings of the Christmas holiday may have been a pagan ritual of sorts it by no means destroys the meaning of Christmas today.
Is it wrong to decorate a Christmas tree? Our Father compared Himself to the great fir trees of Lebanon and in the Book of Hosea we find:
Hosea 14:7 They that dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall revive as the corn, and grow as the vine: the scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon.
Hosea 14:8: Ephraim shall say, What have I to do any more with idols? I have heard him, and observed him:
I am like a green fir tree. From me is thy fruit found.
Through the use of an analogy, our Father compares Himself to these fir trees of Lebanon. They are evergreen, they never shed their leaves, they are alive all year long and, spiritually, they represent eternal life.