[CF Devotionals] 2016-12-16 - Dating Christmas

Originally Published 2008-12-26

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This may surprise some people but Christmas, or rather Jesus' birthday, was probably not December 25 or even 1 AD for that matter. Just the fact that shepherds were out in the field with the sheep meant it was not winter. I just checked the weather in Israel and it is 49 degrees. You would be crazy to sleep out in the fields with the sheep with temperatures like that.

Records were not the best back then and dates can be confusing due to many different calendars but here are some date approximations to consider. In 12 BC, Rome ordered a census, which was finished around 8 or 7 BC. In 4 BC, Herod died - Jesus was born before his death.

So let's see what we can uncover by examining the scripture; but first, I need to tell you a little about the Jewish calendar. They use a lunar calendar system which gets off a little more than our modern 365 day calendar so rather than a single day being added every four years they get an extra month for leap year every so often to keep the lunar months in sync with the solar year. The Jewish year starting in spring consists of Nisan, Iyar, Sivan, Tammuz, Av, Elul, Tishri, Heshvan, Kislev, Tevet, Shevat, and Adar. In leap years, Adar becomes Adar 2 and an Adar 1 is added in if I understand it correctly.

Now for the fast journey through scripture:

  • Luke 1:5 reveals that Zechariah is part of Abijah division of priests.
  • 1 Chronicles 24:10 tells us that Abijah was the eighth of twenty-four divisions
  • 1 Chronicles 9:25 states that each division served one week at a time.
  • 2 Chronicles 23:8 says each group started began and ended their shifts on the Sabbath.
  • Deuteronomy 16:16 states that everyone served for 3 festival weeks - the Feast of Unleavened Bread, Feast of Weeks, and Feast of Tabernacles. In order to make a full Jewish year each division would serve have to serve two shifts plus the three weeks. Between the first and eighth week was two of the special weeks (Unleavened Bread and Weeks) so Abijah's division would have served in the tenth week of the year.
  • Luke 1:23-24 tells us that Elizabeth conceived after his service ended which would be about Sivan 25. If you add 40 weeks that puts his birth during Passover - when Elijah was to come back. As I understand it, Jews to this day still prepare an extra place for Elijah expecting him to come back during Passover. In
  • Matthew 11:13-14, John is referred to as the new Elijah.
  • Luke 1:26 Jesus conceived six months after John - about Kislev 25. This falls into Chanukah, the festival of lights. According to John 1, Jesus is the light of the world so it is rather fitting that his earthly life began in the womb at the time when light would be celebrated. John would have been born around Nisan 15 so Jesus would have been born around Tishri 15 during Succoth, the Feast of Tabernacles.
  • John 1:14 tells us the Word became flesh and made his dwelling (succah) among us. He tabernacled among us at the time his people celebrated the Feast of tabernacles. Luke 2:10 says the angels announced tidings of great joy. Joy was a major theme of Succoth

After doing a little digging with calendar conversion tools, I found that these were some possible dates for Tishri 15 back then:

  • 9/20/0001 AD
  • 9/30/0001 BC
  • 9/11/0002 BC
  • 9/22/0003 BC
  • 10/04/0004 BC
  • 9/14/0005 BC
  • 9/25/0006 BC
  • 10/06/0007 BC
  • 9/18/0008 BC

So if Herod died in 4 BC, Christ was born at least two years before that and his earthly parents went to Bethlehem dues to a census, his birthday would be sometime after mid September on in to early October. The point of all this isn't really to point to some other day specifically though. However, since we don't know what day Jesus was born on maybe instead of celebrating it on December 25 we should celebrate it every day. The hope, joy, peace, and love that we cherish during the Christmas season should be with us every other day as well. As Charles Dickens put it, "I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year."

Hope yesterday, today and tomorrow are all wonderful Christ days for you!


[email adam] acdum@hotmail.com

All scripture references from KJV (King James Version) unless otherwise noted

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