Prior to the Son’s coming, humanity was in a freefall of unrighteousness as we could not see a way to reach God. The Ten Commandments showed us our deep need for God, yet it didn’t produce the heart change necessary to see what we needed to see. We dove fully into our own sinful desires of power and lust.
The reason Christians celebrate Jesus’ birth is because His coming was the beginning of hope for us. Matthew 1:21 says, “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Jesus is the bridge between people and the Father. In John 14:6, Jesus tells us He is the way, the truth, and the life, and that no one can come to the Father except through Him. He is worthy to celebrate!
When Was Jesus Born?
The Bible gives no specific date for Jesus’ birth, and because of that, there is great debate about why we actually celebrate Jesus’ birth on December 25th. Some articles suggest the celebration falls on December 25th because Pope Julius 1 selected a day in the winter solstice to appropriate pagan festivals and transform them into a Christian holiday. This was in the 4th Century. Christmas Day wasn’t accepted as a federal holiday in the United States until 1870. The Victorians are said to have transformed the traditions into what we know today with Carolers and Christmas cards.
Other articles suggest December 25th is accurate because of signs pointing to when Hebrew shepherds historically tended their flocks as well as the timeline of Mary and Elizabeth’s pregnancies. According to that article, it was customary for Jews to send their sheep to pasture from the spring until early October. As winter began, the flocks would return. Luke 2:8-9 says, “Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks by night.” In addition to that, the article link at the beginning of this paragraph does a great job outlining the timeline of the pregnancy leading to a December timeframe. BibleStudyTools.com offers an opinion on the year as well.
Where Was Jesus Born?
It is commonly understood that Bethlehem is the birthplace of Jesus, yet there is still speculation about that as well. Some people question whether there was a Bethlehem at that time or not, or if a very pregnant Mary would be physically able to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem. There is debate about why they would have been in Bethlehem as some say there was a record of a census being done while other accounts have no documentation of a census.
Matthew 2:1-2 says, “Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men (or royal astrologers) from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose (or a star in the East), and we have come to worship him.”
Luke 2:1-7 says, “At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant. And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.”
Was Jesus Literally Born in a Manger?
Yet another debated topic, Jesus was not physically born in the manger, obviously, but was placed in it right after his birth per the scriptures referenced above. A manger is defined as a box or trough for horses or cattle to eat out of. They are generally associated with blue collar settings and farmland.
Luke 2:11-12 says, “The Savior-yes, the Messiah, the Lord-has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” Based on this account of Jesus’ birth, yes, there was an account of his first place of rest being in a feeding trough. It is believed that because of the census and no vacancies available for lodging, Mary and Joseph had no other place to stay and made do with what they had.
Shouldn’t Jesus, our great King, the one who made a way for us have been born in better circumstances? At least a nice bed and clean sheets, right? The beautiful thing about Jesus being born and placed in a manger is that it is representative of his purpose and his character. Matthew 20:28 says, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” This part of his character was revealed from his very first day.
What is the Nativity Story?
As this Bible Study Tools reference describes, the nativity story is basically just an account of the night Jesus was born. It documents where Mary and Joseph went, why they were there, their surroundings, the wise men, the great star, and the move of the spirit of God that moved people into hope that day. You can read both accounts of the nativity story in Matthew chapters 1-2 as well as Luke chapters 1-2.
The nativity story shows a huge part of the connection that happens between the Old and New Testaments and the power of God. All of the prophecies inspired by God in the Old Testament were coming together in this new thing. It reveals more of God as the Alpha and the Omega and begins to reveal his purpose for us as human beings. Christ being born was a new place of hope and the beginning of love in our hearts as God began a new work that we did not earn. The power this created is what we now fall to our knees for: grace.
This place of praise is what broke out per Luke 2:13-14, which says, “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.’” The nativity scene with Jesus in the manger represents God’s plan to redeem us. It is the greatness of both traditional descendants of kings, wise men, and a new king born of a virgin, humbling themselves before a great God in acknowledgment of our need for Him and praise for Him making a way.
What Does the Old Testament Say about Jesus’ Birth?
Micah 5:2 – “The Lord says, ‘Bethlehem Ephrathah, you are one of the smallest towns in Judah, but out of you I will bring a ruler for Israel, whose family line goes back to ancient times.’”
Jeremiah 23:5 – “The Lord says, ‘The time is coming when I will choose as king a righteous descendant of David. That king will rule wisely and do what is right and just throughout the land.’”
Isaiah 7:14 – “But the Lord will still give you proof. A virgin is pregnant; she will have a son and will name him Immanuel.”
Isaiah 9:6 – “A child is born to us! A son is given to us! And he will be our ruler. He will be called ‘Wonderful Counselor,’ ‘Mighty God,’ ‘Eternal Father,’ ‘Prince of Peace.’”
Isaiah 11:1 – “The royal line of David is like a tree that has been cut down; but just as new branches sprout from a stump, so a new king will arise from among David’s descendants.”
Numbers 24:17 – “What I saw in my vision hasn’t happened yet. But some day, a king of Israel will appear like a star.”
The Most Important Information of All
I think all the debating about specific details and dates comes from a faulty approach of looking at hope like something we pull straws for. Perhaps some of us think, “Maybe we’ll confirm the Bible’s inerrancy ourselves and I won’t have to question it anymore.” At the end of the day, even if we somehow scientifically nailed down and verified for certain the date of Jesus birth, the place, the setting, the people that were there and the reason Jesus was there, what does it change?
At some point, we will have to decide what we want driving our lives more: our faith or our opinions and doubts. What we know for sure is that God has this heart for us. One that wanted to make a way for more, a way to connect with Him and carry out a purpose greater than knowledge or power could ever meet. Out of that heart, He made amazing things happen so we would trust Him. The fact that Jesus was born and that He came here and died for us will always carry more weight and fruitfulness than the exact date or setting of it.
Today, let’s remember the definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1. It is the substance of things that we hope for and the evidence of what we cannot see. It starts with hoping and believing in the good things. Jesus merely being born and carrying out His purpose is a wonderful thing. Whatever facts we can confirm may bring some sense of relief, but the beginning of our hope is in the belief simply for what He came for. You are loved.
Kyle Blevins is the sole contributor to the blog, REDIRECTED, which focuses on rediscovering purpose through love. His broken life took a turning point after being surrounded by positive people who believed he was capable of more. His passion is connecting with and encouraging those looking for a new beginning in life and in Christ. You can follow his blog at iamredirected.com.
This article is part of our larger Christmas and Advent resource library centered around the events leading up to the birth of Jesus Christ. We hope these articles help you understand the meaning and story behind important Christian holidays and dates and encourage you as you take time to reflect on all that God has done for us through his son Jesus Christ!
What is Christmas? Understanding History, Origin and Traditions
When Was Jesus Born? History of December 25th
Where Was Jesus Born? 5 Things to Know about Bethlehem
The Birth of Jesus: Bible Story and Scripture Verses
Why Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh Were Given to Baby Jesus
Christmas Bible Verses & Scripture Story
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