December Birthday

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. (Luke 2:1-7 ESV).

Tomorrow is another granddaughter’s birthday. Maggie will be three! I’ll have more to say in tomorrow’s devotional; however, today I want to focus on “December Birthdays.” Of course, that brings us to the discussion of Jesus’ birthday. Our reading is sufficiently silent about the exact date. It does give us some clues. Most scholars agree it was customary for the Jews to send their sheep to pasture from the spring until early October. As the cold winter months began, the flocks would return from the fields for shelter and warmth. Since the shepherds were still tending their flocks in the fields around Bethlehem it might be concluded that the angels announced the news of Jesus’ birth no later than October.

We can find some additional clues to answer the question of “when was Jesus really born” by looking at the birth of John the Baptist. Luke 1 tells of Zacharias, who was from the priestly order of Abijah, and his barren wife, Elizabeth, becoming pregnant with John the Baptist after his days of service in the temple. In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy Gabriel visited Mary with the news that she would give birth to Jesus. The approximate month of Jesus’ birth can thus be determined by counting from the date of Zacharias’ priestly service until the birth of Jesus. Jewish priests were divided into 24 courses which ministered throughout the year in the temple. The order of Abijah was the eighth priestly course (cf. 1 Chronicles 24:6-19) which served in the temple during the 10th week of the priestly cycle. The start of the 10th week coincided with the second Sabbath in the month of Sivan, which runs approximately from mid-May to mid-June. Soon after Zechariah returned from his priestly duties Elizabeth became pregnant with John the Baptist. According to these references we can approximate the month of Jesus’ birth to be around the time of Tishri, or mid to late September.

We might want to say, “So?” Well, the importance of the silence of the Scripture as to the exact time points us to the real focal point of Jesus’ life and ministry. The birth is only important in that it allowed him to die and be resurrected! This year, think upon Jesus, His sacrifice, and His mercy. That’s the real Good News!