GOD WITH US
(Should a Christian Celebrate "Christmas"?)
Pastor George C. Bruns
In the Fulness of Time
In the Book of Galatians written by the Apostle Paul, he records the following:
"But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons." (Galatians 4:4, 5 KJV)
God in His infinite wisdom knew that man if given a free will would ultimately rebel against Him and so He made provision for this in His great decree,
"I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee." (Psalm 2:7 KJV)
This prophetic quote was written by David, the King of Israel. This quote within its near context concerns itself with the coming of the Jewish Messiah, the Son of God to establish an earthly kingdom where He would reign supreme from Jerusalem, not just over Israel, but over the entire earth. However, this Scripture portion is quoted in the New Testament no less than three times. Psalm 2:7 is quoted once in Acts 13:33 where the context concerns itself with the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This same Psalm is quoted twice in Hebrews once in chapter 1, verse 5 where the context clearly speaks about the birth of Jesus Christ, and again in chapter 5, verse 5 where the subject is Christ’s work as the believer’s High Priest. All this indicates that at the center of God’s decree was the advent of His Son, Jesus Christ, to planet earth for the salvation of mankind (Revelation 13:8). God planned well for the coming of His Son. And only brought Him forth "in the fulness of time" when everything had been made ready.
God had been preparing people for a long time for this great event. First, He told Adam and Eve immediately after their sin in the garden that He would be sending a Saviour (Genesis 3:15). Then, some 2000 years later, God called Abraham out of Ur and made promises to him concerning his "seed" (Genesis 13:15 cf. Galatians 3:16). Still later, He led His people out of Egypt and gave them types to point the way to the coming Messiah. The Tabernacle in the desert was a type of Christ as was the serpent on the pole, the scapegoat, and many other types were all foreshadows of the coming Christ. The great feasts of Israel also gave a clear picture of the coming Messiah. 1 God also prepared His people by giving them Messianic prophesies and signs that would point to the Saviour. God gave the approximate time of Christ’s birth in Daniel 9, He gave the location of Christ’s birth in Micah 5, and He gave the manner of Christ’s birth in Isaiah 7"
"Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." (Isaiah 7:14 KJV)
The New Testament Book of Matthew tells us more about God’s preparation for His coming Son and the meaning of "Immanuel,"
"Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily. But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us." (Matthew 1:18-23 KJV)
Such careful preparation was being made by God so that every minute prophetic detail might be accurately fulfilled. But God was not done yet, He had prepared Mary and Joseph for the event but He still had to do more in the way of preparing the nation Israel for the day when God would again tabernacle with man.
A Call to Repentance
Earlier, this writer mentioned how God had begun to prepare Israel for Messiah’s advent by giving them types, signs and feasts. Well, God mandated that Israel observe three very important events in the fall of each year. These events are Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot. Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur differ from Sukkot, Chanuka, Purim and Passover in that they have no historical significance, rather they are purely religious holy days instituted by God for the nation Israel to observe. Why? This writer believes that God instituted these holy days for one reason and one reason only, to prepare for the feast of Sukkot (Tabernacles).
The Jewish people have two calendars, a religious calendar that begins with the month Nissan (March/April), and a civil calendar that begins with the month of Tishri (September/ October). It is on the first and second day of Tishri that the Jews the world over celebrate Rosh Hashanah as their New Year. Rosh Hashanah means “Head of the Year.” However, unlike the gentile New Year celebration, Rosh Hashanah is not a joyous time, but rather a solemn and holy occasion. The mandate for this holy observance is given in the Book of Leviticus,“And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel saying, In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall ye have a sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, an holy convocation. Ye shall do no servile work therein: but ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord.” (Leviticus 23:23-25 KJV)
Notice that God gave this day no specific name, so it became known as "Yom T’ruah" or the "Day of Blowing," because God had commanded the blowing of trumpets on that day. Israel’s first trumpets were made from the horns of rams called "shofars." These horns, or "trumpets" as they are called in the King James Bible were blown during important times in Israel’s history. They were blown to prepare Israel for special events like the receiving of the law (Exodus 19:14-19), to ready themselves for war (Joshua 6:20-21), and to prepare Israel for the coming of Messiah (Zechariah 9:14). So why was the trumpet sounded during Rosh Hasanah? A reading of Psalm 81:1-16 and Isaiah 58:1 should explain it. The Jewish people had just passed through a long, hot, dry summer without a single holy day since Pentecost. It was time to remember the Lord; a time to turn to God in repentance after the long spiritual dry spell their souls had just experienced. And repentance was an absolute necessity considering what was to follow.
A Call to Redemption
God had instituted the blowing of trumpets to call Israel to repentance in preparation for Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. This was the holiest day of the year. The biblical name is really "Yom Hakippurim" and it means the "Day of Covering" or the "Day of Concealment."
Under the Old Testament economy of sin and forgiveness, sin was never washed away by animal sacrifices, they were only "covered" or "concealed." Animal blood was only to be a temporary covering. The author of Hebrews explains,
"For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins." (Hebrews 10:4 KJV)
This is why animals were being continually sacrificed in Israel. It was to demonstrate to the Jewish people the horror of sin and the high cost of it. The payment for sin required death as the shedding of blood demonstrates, because the essence of life resides in the blood.
"For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the alter to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul." (Leviticus 17:11 KJV)
"And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission." (Hebrews 9:22 KJV)
And the most important sacrifice each year took place nine days after the blowing of the Shofar on the 10th day of Tishri.
"And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Also on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement: it shall be an holy convocation unto you: and ye shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord. And ye shall do no work in that same day: for it is a day of atonement for you before the Lord your God." (Leviticus 23:26-28 KJV)
This was a very sacred time, a very special and holy time. It was at this time of year that the High Priest would enter the Holy of Holies where the Ark of God rested (Leviticus 16:1-34). The symbolism of this event certainly cannot be lost to the Born-again believer. The sacrifice of the male animal, the spilling of innocent blood, the washing of the priest outwardly as a sign of cleansing of sin from within and the scapegoat taking away the sin of the people, etc. all are symbolic of Christ. To the Jew this sacrifice was to be completed every year without fail (Leviticus 23:31). He was to keep this observance forever or until the coming of the Lord at which time the judgment would render the sacrifices obsolete. So where is that sacrifice today? Gone! When Jesus Christ, the Jewish Messiah came and died His death was the final payment to God for all of mankind’s sins. When Israel rejected Christ God took away their temple and their sacrificial system in A.D. 70. They no longer had any other blood sacrifice left to them but Christ’s. But, Christ’s sacrifice had to be accepted in order for it to be applied (Romans 4-5). Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was what the Day of Atonement was pointing toward. No wonder these days were called the "Days of Awe." Again we must ask the question, "Why?, Why did God place this holy day here on the calendar. Why did He place it to fall just prior to Sukkot?"
A Call to Rejoicing
The third fall festival on the Jewish calendar is Sukkot or sometimes called the feast of Tabernacles. Most generally this festival falls in our month of October. The Biblical warrant for this festival is also found in Leviticus chapter twenty three.
"And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the feast of tabernacles for seven days unto the LORD. On the first day shall be an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein. Seven days ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD: on the eighth day shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD: it is a solemn assembly; and ye shall do no servile work therein. These are the feasts of the LORD, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, to offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD, a burnt offering, and a meat offering, a sacrifice, and drink offerings, everything upon his day: Beside the sabbaths of the LORD, and beside your gifts, and beside all your vows, and beside all your freewill offerings, which ye give unto the LORD. Also in the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when ye have gathered in the fruit of the land, ye shall keep a feast unto the LORD seven days: on the first day shall be a sabbath, and on the eighth day shall be a sabbath. And ye shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook; and ye shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days. And ye shall keep it a feast unto the LORD seven days in the year. It shall be a statute for ever in your generations: ye shall celebrate it in the seventh month. Ye shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are Israelites born shall dwell in booths: That your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God." (Leviticus 23:33-43 KJV)
Israel had been called first to repentance (Rosh Hashanah), then to spiritual cleanliness (Yom Kippur). All in preparation for the feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot). And why was Sukkot so important that it was one of the only three feasts of Israel that required every male to attend the Temple services in Jerusalem? Because God wanted them to remember the time He had delivered them from bondage, protected them from their enemies, provided for their needs, dwelt with them, and led them to the promised land. God wanted Israel to again be prepared for the time when He would dwell among them. Sukkot is to the Jew what the Lord’s Supper is to the Christian, it is a memorial service. It points back to deliverance and forward to a future rest! Israel had to prepare for Messiah – the coming of Emmanuel, "God with us." In the next few paragraphs the reader will come to understand that Christ was most likely born sometime around the feast of Tabernacles in October and not on December 25th.
The Evidence from History Concerning the Birth of Christ
Let us look first at the evidence of history. Jesus Christ was a real person. He was born at a certain time, on a certain day, in a certain year just like you and I were. What we need to understand is that there must be evidence of that birth somewhere, especially when you consider the impact that this man had on history. Luke mentions in his gospel record that Jesus was born at a time in history when there was a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the Roman Empire should be taxed. Luke writes the following:
"And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn." (Luke 2:1-7 KJV)
Now, what does history tell us about this time of taxation? Here is a quote from Werner Keller’s book The Bible as History,
"Without exacting tribute from its foreign possessions Rome would never have been able on the strength of its own resources to afford the luxury of its much admired magnificent buildings and pleasances, its extravagant way of living, or its expensive system of administering its empire. Roman emperors were able to guarantee their people 'Panem et Circenses', 'bread and circuses', on a grand scale at no cost to themselves…. The census, which was its official name in Rome, was originally held every five years. This five year period even entered the literature of Rome as the 'lustrum' and this word enjoyed great favour among Roman writers and in formal speech. Changes in the economy as well as in the constitution, the introduction of immunity from taxation for Roman citizens and the troubles of the later Republican period led to the gradual abandonment of the census….It is true that Augustus revived the census, particularly in the provinces, but even he did not reintroduce it on the old five year basis. It is important to remember this for the dating of the birth of Jesus depends upon it to some extant." 2
If Caesar Augustus reestablished the census and he did not do it according to the old five year system, how did he reestablish it, and how does it impact the time of Christ’s birth?
Augustus had won a great military victory over Marc Anthony at Actium on September 2 in 31 B.C., and so in memorial to that victory Augustus declared that a new census would be taken on that date every fourteen years. Although the anniversary of the year was always met the month and day were not. In the year Christ was born a new military governor had been appointed to Syria by Rome, his name was Cyrenius (Quirinus). Dr. Ralph Yarnell, author of Should Christians Observe Christmas? writes,
"I have examined scores of writings on the subject, and among those who believe Cyrenius to have had two governorships in Syria, there is no reason to reject the view that his first governorship began in the Hebrew month of Tizri, which is the Roman month October. Those interested should read from the writings of the prince of Roman historians, Professor Mommsen’s 'History of Rome From Earliest Times' 5 vol. and, 'The Provinces of the Roman Empire’ 2 vol.
Now for a moment let us look back at the statement in Luke 2:2. ‘And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.’
If Cyrenius had two governorships in Syria, does this verse refer to the first or to the second? As the verse is rendered in the King James, it is impossible to tell by the passage alone without comparing it with historical facts. And, we ought never to prove scripture by history, but rather prove history by scripture, for history can be wrong, but scripture, never.
In the verse it is perfectly permissible without doing violence to true interpretation, to render the verse in a slightly different manner by placing two words in a different place in the statement. In fact it is by far the preferable way to render the verse.
Those two word are: ‘first made‘. Following are both renderings, with the two words in parentheses. ‘And this taxing was (first made)when Cyrenius was governor of Syria‘
'And this taxing was when Cyrenius was (first made) governor of Syria.’
You can immediately see that the latter rendering proves Cyrenius to have had more than one governorship, but also proves that the taxing (enrollment) was made when he was appointed governor the first time. Now if he was appointed governor the first time in the month of October, and the taxing was made when he was first appointed, and Jesus was born during the time of that taxing, then History confirms that Jesus was born in October." 3
This evidence is most interesting but surely this evidence alone is not enough to change almost two thousand years of church tradition, is it? No, its not. However, this evidence from history is not the only evidence that points to an October birth for Jesus Christ."
The Evidence from Archeology Concerning the Birth of Christ
Archeology is the Bible’s best friend. Professor Manfred Kober writes,
"The main function of [Biblical] archeology is to illustrate the Bible, making sacred Scripture fully intelligible to the human mind. In addition archeology illuminates the Bible, shedding light on numerous passages which have long puzzled the commentators". Another benefit of archaeology is that of confirming or authenticating the Bible. Archeology supports countless passages that have been rejected by critics as unhistorical or contradictory to known facts…. Lastly, archeology supplements the Bible…. Archeology adds a wealth of detail to our knowledge of biblical events and personages." 4
One of the discoveries in archeology which sheds additional light on the time of Christ’s birth is again taken from Dr. Ralph Yarnell,
"Caesar Augustus being the Emperor of Rome in that day, and Rome in control of the world so to speak, the taxing decree had to be publicized somehow far and wide, if all the world were to go their native province to be taxed (enrolled).
There were of course no mass media of communication such as Radio, TV, and Press as we have today. The logical and reasonable way therefore to notify persons in every province, was to post notices of the official decree in every province.
This was done as both history and archaeology testify.
It is my understanding that postings of Caesar’s decree have been unearthed, showing that the time when each person must go to their own native city to be enrolled as Joseph did, Luke 2:3-5, was in the month that corresponds with our month October.
Dr. Harry Rimmer, who in his day was not only an outstanding Preacher, but also an outstanding Scientist with a wide experience in the field of archaeology held to the position that Jesus was born in October." 5
The evidence from both history and archeology both seem to point to an October birth, but what does the Bible teach? Now here is where the vast majority of both Bible students and teachers would say, "The Bible is silent on this issue, we can’t tell in what month Christ was born from Scripture?" Not so! The Bible is very clear on this issue.
The Evidence from the Bible
In the Statement of Faith of most fundamental churches you will find a sentence something like the following. "We believe the Bible to be the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creed and opinion shall be tried." We say it, but do we mean it? What if the Bible really does teach that Jesus Christ was born in October, should Christians continue to perpetuate a lie and observe His birth in December? Before we answer that question, perhaps we should see what the Bible really teaches.
There are several indications in Scripture that point to an October birthdate for our Saviour. The first indication I have already given you, the Fall Feasts of Israel and all they represent.
The second indication is found in Luke chapter two.
"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night." (Luke 2:8 KJV)
The key word here is "abiding." This word tells us that these shepherds were not just out to look over the herd and then going to return home again. They were living outdoors in the fields with their sheep. The following comes from The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary,
"The ruling feature of the climate of Syria is the division of the year into a rainy and dry season. Toward the end of October heavy rains begin to fall, at intervals, for a day or several days at a time. These are what the Bible calls the early or former rain (Heb. yoreh) literally the pourer….but the whole of the winter is the rainy season, as indeed we are told in the well- known lines of the Song of Songs:
‘Lo, the winter is past,
The rain is over and gone.’ " 6
Now, any good book on biblical manners and customs will tell you that the shepherds would leave the mountainsides and fields by mid October no longer "abiding" in them because of the heavy rains. Jesus could not have been born in December because the heaviest rains came in December and January when no shepherds were in the fields.
The 3rd indication that Christ was not born in December, but rather in October is also found in Luke. It is the fact that Joseph and Mary had problems with finding lodging.
"And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn." (Luke 2:6-7 KJV)
Why was there no room in the inn, tax travelers? Hardly. There would most likely be just as many people traveling from Bethlehem as were coming to register in Bethlehem. Besides, there would be no traveling to pay taxes, register for a census or anything else in December. The winter weather would not permit it (Matt. 24:15-20a). There should have been plenty of room in the off season of December, but there would be no room if you were only six miles from Jerusalem during the Feast of Tabernacles one of the only three occasions when it was required for all males to show themselves at the Temple. This had been instituted by Solomon (1 Kings 8:2) when God had first entered the newly built temple where indeed God was tabernacling with them!
Fourth, Dr. Charles Halff, director of the Christian Jew Foundation, knowing that it was traditional for a Jewish man to set out on his own at age thirty, writes,
"No one knows the exact day when Jesus was born, but in all probability He was born sometime during the first part of October. We can be reasonably sure of this because His earthly ministry lasted three and a half years, and He was crucified on the fourteenth day of the month Nisan, which corresponds to our April (see John 19:31; Leviticus 23:5). If we go back three and a half years to the time when Jesus was 30 years old when He began His public ministry - we come to the month October. This was probably the month when our blessed Lord was born into the world." 7
The evidence is beginning to grow, but this last indication is really quite compelling.
The history of Christ’s birth really begins in the first chapter of Luke,
"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. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years. And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest's office before God in the order of his course, According to the custom of the priest's office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense. And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. 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. And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. 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. And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. 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. And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years. And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings. 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. And the people waited for Zacharias, and marvelled that he tarried so long in the temple. 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. And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house. And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived and hid herself five months, saying, Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men. And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. 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. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. 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: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? 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. 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." (Luke 1:5-35 KJV)
Within these thirty one verses we will find all the clues we need to prove that Christ was born in October. In Luke chapter 1, verse five we are told that Zacharias was a priest "of the course of Abia." Verse six tells us that Zacharias was "righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless." And in verses eight and nine we are told that while fulfilling his duties as a priest it came upon Zacharias to burn incense in the temple "in the order of his course." This is significant information in that from it we can tell exactly when Zacharias served in the temple, when Elizabeth conceived, when Mary conceived and when both John the Baptist and Jesus Christ were born! Dr. Yarnell explains,
"In Luke 1:5 Zacharias is said to be a Priest of the order of Abia (Greek) Abijah (Hebrew). This course as named in the 24 courses in 1 Chr. 24:10 is the eighth course, and would minister in the Temple during the last half of the fourth month of Thammuz in Israel's calendar, or the middle of our month of July."
In the intervening verses, the story is told of Zacharias praying, his prayer being heard by God, Gabriel announcing that Elizabeth would bear a son to Zacharias and his name was to be John, the unbelief of Zacharias at such an announcement because of his advanced age, Gabriel inflicting dumbness upon Zacharias until John should be
born, as a sign that this would come to pass, Then in verse 21 we are told that the people wondered why Zacharias tarried so long in the Temple. They had been used to the other Priests violating Lev. 8:33-35 and going in and out,
and not staying a full seven days before coming out like Zacharias did.
When he did come out at the end of seven days vs. 22, they were amazed because he was speechless. His work was not yet complete. The seven days were merely his days of consecration. He could not go home to Elizabeth yet, much as he must have wanted to since Gabriel's message that Elizabeth would conceive by him and bear him a son.
He must return into the Temple to minister for the people for 8 more days to fulfill the full 15 in the course of Abia. The next two verses, 23 and 24 are very important to the whole picture. It says, ‘AS SOON AS the days of his ministration were accomplished he departed to his own house.’ ‘AS SOON AS’ leaves no interval at all. He went home to Elizabeh immediately following his 15 days ministry in the Temple. ‘And AFTER THOSE DAYS his wife Elizabeth conceived.’ ‘AFTER THOSE DAYS’ means that Elizabeth conceived right after the 15 days of Zacharias' ministry in the Temple, when he came home to her immediately. There would be 9 days left in our July when Zacharias came home to Elizabeth. It is likely that Elizabeth's conception took place on the first of those 9 days, but certainly all should agree that it was within those last 9 days of July…. Now computing the time (month) of the birth of Jesus is a simple matter from here on. Verse 57 tells us that John was a nine months baby, he was not premature. Verse 36 tells us that Elizabeth conceived six months before Mary which would make John six months older than Jesus. Luke 2:6 & Gal. 4:4 show us that Jesus was a nine months baby and was not premature…. When Mary conceived of the Holy Ghost, Elizabeth had conceived six months earlier and Jesus was born nine months later. It is a simple matter of addition. Six months plus nine months equal 15 months from the time Elizabeth conceived until Jesus was born. Counting 15 months from July one year, would bring you to October the next year, the time of Jesus' birth." 8
I don’t think there can be any more doubt, Jesus of Nazareth, our Lord and Saviour, who came to die for the sins of all mankind, was born around the time of the Feast of Tabernacles in our month October. If the reader still has any doubt of this then just explain why in Zechariah 14 all nations, including the "heathen nations", are required to observe the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles during the Millennium upon pain of punishment and they do not have to observe any of the other feasts. Unless the event marked the time Jesus Christ began His earthly walk with us, and tabernacled with us, as God with us. No, there can be no question about it, October is the month of Jesus’ birth.
Now if history, archaeology, and Scripture all point to October as the birth month of Jesus then why do we celebrate His birth on December 25th?
The Christmas-Pagan Connection
Christmas is a Roman Catholic invention. The word "Christmas" is a combination form of two other words, Christ and Mass. It literally means Christ’s Mass and refers to the special Mass that the Roman Church observes on December 25th in commemoration of what they believe is the birthday of Christ. During the service the Roman priest calls down "Christ" from heaven and believes that he turns the communion bread and wine into the literal flesh and blood of Jesus Christ sacrificing Him over and over again in clear opposition to the Word of God (Hebrews 9:12, 24-26; 10:10, 12, 14). This is blasphemy! Alexander Hislop, in his book The Two Babylons, links Christmas to Romanism and Romanism to Babylon.
December 25th and the celebration surrounding that date (commonly referred to as "Christmas") are not Biblical. First of all, birthday observances are not Christian. There are only two birthday celebrations found in Scripture and they were observed by two pagan rulers (Genesis 40:22; Matthew 14:6). Both of those celebrations concerned themselves with "the pride of life" of each of those men culminating in murder. No Biblical figure is seen celebrating the anniversary of the birth of Christ during His lifetime or after His ascension. This should be a warning to us concerning how we celebrate our own birthdays.
Second, no early church bishop, elder, or leader (the term "Father" should not be used [Matthew 23:9]) for the first 300 years of church history observed December 25th or any other date as Christ’s birthday. The church at Jerusalem did not celebrate "Christmas" until 440 A.D.!
Third, the Bible commands Christians to commemorate Christ’s death by observing the Lord’s Supper, not by observing His birth, at least not in this dispensation.
Alexander Hislop gives a detailed account of the relationship of Christmas to the Babylonian mystery religions. In essence Hislop links the 25th of December to the birth of Tammuz (the false god/man), the son of Semiramis (the original and only blasphemous "queen of heaven," Jeremiah 7:18-20, wife of Nimrod, Genesis 10:8-10). He states that the 25th was the birthday of the Sun god Mithras (another of Tammuz‘s many names). The Romans worshipped the Sun god Mithras and when Christianity became the official religion of Rome under Constantine in about A.D. 311 a substitute for the Mithras celebration had to be found. 9
Rick Miesel of Biblical Discernment Ministries, reports this,
"December 25th was particularly important in the cult of Mithras, a popular deity in the Old Roman Empire. Robert Myers (a proponent for celebrating Christmas) in his book CELEBRATIONS says:
‘Prior to the celebration of Christmas, December 25th in the Roman world was the Natalis Solis Invicti, the Birthday of the Unconquerable Sun. This feast, which took place just after the winter solstice of the Julian calendar, was in
honor of the Sun God, Mithras, originally a Persian deity whose cult penetrated the Roman world in the first century B.C.... Besides the Mithraic influence, other pagan forces were at work. From the seventeenth of December until the
twenty-third, Romans celebrated the ancient feast of the Saturnalia.... It was commemorative of the Golden Age of Saturn, the god of sowing and husbandry.’
In order to make Christianity palatable to the heathen, the Roman Church simply took Saturnalia, adopted it into Christianity, and then eventually many of the associated pagan symbols,forms, customs and traditions were re-interpreted (i.e., ‘Christianized’) in ways ‘acceptable’ to Christian faith and practice- (In fact, in 375 A.D., the Church of Rome under Pope Julius I merely announced that the birth date of Christ had been ‘discovered’ to be December 25th, and was accepted as such by the ‘faithful.’ The festival of Saturnalia and the birthday of Mithras could now be celebrated as the birthday of Christ!) The pagans flocked into the Catholic places of worship, because they were still able to worship their old gods, but merely under different names. It mattered not to them whether they worshiped the Egyptian goddess-mother and her child under the old names (Isis and Horus), or under the names of the ‘Virgin Mary’ and the ‘Christ-child.’ Either way, it was the same old idol religion. (cf. 1 Thess. 1:8-10; 5:22 - Paul says to turn from idols, not rename them and Christianize them!) Roman Catholicism's Christmas Day is nothing but ‘baptized’ paganism, having come along much too late to be part of ‘the faith once delivered unto the saints’ (Jude 3). 10
Even secular historians recognize that "Christmas" is not Christian. Read this from the Encyclopedia Britannica,
"The reason why Christmas came to be celebrated on December 25 remains uncertain, but most probably the reason is that early Christians wished the date to coincide with the pagan Roman festival marking the "birthday of the unconquered sun" (natalis solis invicti); this festival celebrated the winter solstice, when the days again begin to lengthen and the sun begins to climb higher in the sky. The traditional customs connected with Christmas have accordingly developed from several sources as a result of the coincidence of the celebration of the birth of Christ with the pagan agricultural and solar observances at midwinter. In the Roman world the Saturnalia (December 17) was a time of merrymaking and exchange of gifts. December 25 was also regarded as the birth date of the Iranian mystery god Mithra, the Sun of Righteousness. On the Roman New Year (January 1), houses were decorated with greenery and lights, and gifts were given to children and the poor. To these observances were added the German and Celtic Yule rites when the Teutonic tribes penetrated into Gaul, Britain, and central Europe. Food and good fellowship, the Yule log and Yule cakes, greenery and fir trees, and gifts and greetings all commemorated different aspects of this festive season. Fires and lights, symbols of warmth and lasting life, have always been associated with the winter festival, both pagan and Christian. Since the European Middle Ages, evergreens, as symbols of survival, have been associated with Christmas.
Christmas is traditionally regarded as the festival of the family and of children, under the name of whose patron, Saint Nicholas, or Santa Claus, presents are exchanged in many countries." 11
Charles Halff, again writes,
"The Pagan history of Christmas has been well known throughout history. In fact, at one time the celebration of this pagan custom was forbidden by law in England. In 1644, Parliament declared Christmas to be unlawful; and, consequently, it was abolished. The English Puritans looked upon the celebration of Christmas as the work of Satan.
At one time in early American history, the observance of Christmas was illegal. A law was adopted in the general court of Massachusetts about 1650 which required that those who celebrated Christmas were to be punished. The statute read ‘Whosoever shall be found observing any such day as Christmas, or in any way shall be subject to a fine of 5 shillings.
The law’s preamble explained its purpose was ‘for preventing disorders"(by) observing such festivals as were superstitiously kept in other countries to the great dishonor of God and the offense of others’ After the Mayflower landed in 1620, the first December 25th was spent in labor and cutting down trees in order to avoid any frivolity on the day sometimes called Christmas." 12
Even the great Baptist minister Charles Haddon Spurgeon peached against Christmas in 1871,
"We have no superstitious regard for times and seasons. Certainly we do not believe in the present ecclesiastical arrangement called Christmas…. We venture to assert, that if there be any day in the year of which we may be pretty sure that it was not the day on which the Saviour was born, it was the 25th of December'." 13
The New England Congregationalist, Henry Ward Beecher wrote in 1874,
"To me Christmas is a foreign day, and I shall die so. When I was a boy I wondered what Christmas was. I knew there was such a time, because we had an Episcopal church in our town, and I saw them dressing it with evergreens, and wondered what they were taking the woods in the church for; but I got no satisfactory explanation. A little later I understood it was a Romish institution, kept by the Romish Church." 14
Plymouth Brethren leader Harry Ironside spoke out against all "holy days," in the first half of the twentieth century,
"It is a lamentable fact that Babylon’s principles and practices are rapidly but surely pervading the churches that escaped from Rome at the time of the Reformation. We may see evidences of it in the wide use of high sounding ecclesiastical titles, once unknown in the reformed churches, in the revival of holy days and church feasts such as lent, Good Friday, Easter, and some of these festivals - when they are turned into church festivals, they certainly come under the condemnation of Galatians 4:9-11, where Spirit warns against the observance of days and months and times and seasons. All of them, and many more that might be added, are Babylonish in their origin, and were at one time linked with Ashtoreth and Tammuz mystery worship. It is through Rome that they have come down to us: and we do well to remember that Babylon is a mother, with daughters who are likely to partake of their mother’s characteristics" 15
Biblical Prohibitions Concerning Xmas
1. Materialism (Xmas gifts) Ex. 20:17; De. 5:21
2. Nativity Scene (graven images) Ex. 20:4; 32:1-5; 9-10; De. 5:8
3. Observing special "holy days" Galatians 4:9-11
4. Santa Claus (He is said to be omniscient, "He sees you when your sleeping, he knows when your awake.") Ex. 20:3; De. 5:7
5. Taking God’s name in vain (Christ-mas) Ex. 20:7; De. 5:11
6. Xmas Trees Jeremiah 10:1-4
Plan of Salvation
Whether you believe that Christ was born in October or not born in October is not really the important issue. What is important is what you believe concerning His death on the cross and His resurrection from the grave. Because Christ was, after all, born to die. He came to die for you and save you from your sin so that you could have the greatest gift of all - eternal life with God. Take a moment more and read the following simple plan God has for you.
1. Admit to God that you are a sinner. The Bible says, "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23)
2. Recognize that you are under the penalty of death because of your sin. Paul also wrote, "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans 6:23)
3. Know that this death is eternal separation from God in Hell. The Apostle John wrote, "This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire." (Revelation 20:14b-15)
4. Realize that you cannot save yourself. The Apostle Paul writing to the young pastor Titus said, "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour." (Titus 3:5,6)
5. Repent of your sins; have a genuine change of heart toward sin and your God. The Bible says, "For Godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death." (2 Corinthians 7:10)
6. Place your trust in Jesus' death on the cross for your eternal salvation. Again, the Apostle Paul tells us, "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." (Romans 10:9, 10)
1 Some books on typology such as Typology of Scripture by Patrick Fairbairn, Christ in the Tabernacle by Ervin Hershberger, and The Fall Feasts of Israel by Mitch and Zhava Glaser are all helpful.
2 Werner Keller, The Bible as History, New York, William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1981, p. 323.
3 Ralph Yarnell, Should Christians Observe Christmas?, Marietta, Ohio, 1958, p. 15.
4 From the notes of Prof. Manfred E. Kober, Th.D., The Scriptures And The Spade, p. introduction.
5 Ralp Yarnell, op. cit., p. 16.
6 Merril F. Unger, The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary, Chicago, Moody Press, 1988, p. 1061-1062.
7 Charles Halff, Should Christians Celebrate Christmas?, San Antonio, TX, The Christian Jew Foundation, p. 3.
8 Ralph Yarnell, op. cit., p. 18, 19.
9 Alexander Hislop, The Two Babylons, Neptune, New Jersey, Loizeaux Brothers, 1959 [See notes beginning at the bottom of page 91 and carrying over to page 92 concerning the time of Christ’s birth.]
10 Rick Miesel, Should A Christian Celebrate Christmas?, Bedford, IN, Biblical Discernment Ministries, p. 5.
11 Article on Christmas from The Encyclopedia Britannica at Britannica.com., October 2000.
12 Charles Halff, op. cit., p. 9.
13 Rick Miesel, op. cit., p. 29.
14 Ibid. p. 15.
15 Ibid. p. 29.