God's Word does tell us when the birth of Jesus Christ took place. The timing of the birth of Jesus is told through the story of the conception and pregnancy leading to the birth of John the Baptist. What could be more uplifting to realize and more fitting than for God to use John the Baptist whose destiny was to prepare the way for Jesus Christ to also prepare the way that reveals to us when Jesus was born? The timing is spelled out in Luke 1. The difficulty is accurately determining when Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, executed his duties as a priest in the temple.
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 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 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. Luke 1:5,8,9, 11-13
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 for five months . . .
The underlined words in the quoted passages are the key.
We are told that Zacharias was a priest of the course of Abia and that he executed his priestly duties in the order of his course. To understand the importance of the course of Abia and its bearing on the date of John the Baptist's conception, it is necessary to turn to I Chronicles 24:1-10. This passage describes how King David, a thousand years before Christ, established the courses for priestly service in the temple that was to be built. Twenty-four courses were established and numbered by drawing lots - twelve courses for the government of the sanctuary and twelve for the government of the house of God.
Members of each course would serve during a month starting with the Hebrew month of Nisan (the Hebrew month of Nisan can start anytime between early March and early April on our calendar). The sons of Abijah (the Old Testament spelling for Abia) were in the eighth course. Priests of Abia like Zacharias would have ministered for a time during the eighth month, which usually is our month of October. Zacharias would have returned home when his days of service were accomplished. Thus, John the Baptist could have been conceived sometime between October 10th and the end of the month.
The passage in Luke then goes on to describe how Gabriel came to Mary to announce that she was to be the virgin mother of the Messiah, the Lord Jesus. The scripture says:
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 said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou has found favour with God; And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her. Luke 1:26-27,30-31,38
And Mary arose in those days,
and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Judah; and entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth. 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; And she spake out with a loud voice, and said. . .And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. Luke 1:39-44
After conception, scripture tells us that Elizabeth hid herself for five months. In the sixth month of her pregnancy (possibly between March 10 and April 10) the angel announced to Mary that the Lord Jesus would be conceived in her womb by the Holy Ghost. This could have taken place on or about April 1. A normal gestation period of 270 days would result in the Lord Jesus being born near December 25.
In the account of His birth in Luke 2:8:
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
A Montana sheep rancher would report that the men who have flocks are not in church for weeks at Christmas because they have to be in the fields day and night to care for and clean up after the lambs when they are born or many would perish in the cold. The only time shepherds spend the night in the fields with their sheep is during the time when the lambs are born, according to an agriculturalist. The ewes become "attractive" to the rams the month after June 21, the longest day of the year. The normal gestation period for sheep is five months so ewes start lambing about mid-December.
It seems appropriate that the Lamb of God, who was to die for the sins of the world, would be born when all the other little lambs are born. When Jesus came and died the centuries old practice of sacrificing lambs for sin came to an end.
Reference used: WAS JESUS CHRIST REALLY BORN AT CHRISTMAS? ~ GOD S WORD HAS THE BLESSED ANSWER By John Stormer of Understanding The Times, December, 1993
God's Word does not tell us the exact date of Jesus' birth. I believe the reason for this is: God desires that each of us celebrate the birth, life, teachings, sufferings, death and resurrection of Jesus and ponder what this means in our hearts each and every day of our lives.
Have a wonderful and blessed Christmas!
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