What is it you are celebrating today? If you answer Jesus’ birth I’m afraid you’re a little late. He was born back in late September. Scripture tells us that very clearly when we look at the first two chapters of Luke. It starts with the announcement of the conception of John the Baptist to his father, Zacharias.
I find these two chapters absolutely fascinating – the tale of two cousins – one destined to declare the other who had descended straight from heaven. Let’s just look at a few highlights that allow us to definitely date the births of both babies within a week or two.
“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.” (Luke 1:5)
The course of Abia was the eighth of the 24 courses King David had established in 1 Chronicles 24 for the ministry of the temple priests. Each of the 24 courses was to run for one week every six months. So each priestly family served two weeks 6 months apart per year in addition to the 3 weeks per year that all the priests served together: Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. These three are the ones every Israelite male was required to attend each year, no exceptions!
“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.” (Luke 1:8-9)
“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 1:11-13)
We see that Zacharias was serving in his course which was mid June.
“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,” (Luke 1:23-24)
Now Jerusalem was about 30 miles from his home so when his course ended it probably took him a few days to get home which puts Elizabeth conceiving in late June and giving birth 9 months later in late March.
Ok, now let’s look at when Mary conceived Christ and we can date his birth as well.
“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.” (Luke 1:26-27)
“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 1:36)
So Elizabeth is 6 months along with John when Mary conceives Jesus by the Holy Spirit. When is 6 months after late June? Yep, late December, which unfortunately for anyone saying that Jesus was born December 25th puts his birth in late September. This makes much more sense actually since we are told that shepherds are in the field on the night of his birth.
“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.” (Luke 2:8)
The shepherds would have left the fields for the winter by late October so the fields would have been empty had the birth taken place in December. Also worth noting in proving that this most amazing child – God incarnate, Emmanuel God with us – was not born in December is the taxing ordered by Caesar. He would never have ordered this in winter as it would have been much harder to enforce during winter weather when roads were all but impassible.
So we’ve established that Jesus was not born in late December but conceived then. In my opinion this is a far greater miracle than the precious birth which was actually rather ordinary as far as births go. But the conception was the moment that God put meat on and came to dwell among and eventually go to the cross to pay the price for our sins. It is our brokenness, our filth and vileness that will nail the man that precious baby that John leaped in the womb over (want a defense for life beginning at conception there you have it, Mary was a week or so pregnant) grew to be to that tree 33 years later. Our sins separated us eternally from God who is holy just and perfect, therefore he can’t abide sin. That black bitter sin covered us in the debt of breaking God’s laws and the wages of that is death, not physically but spiritually as one day we would be cast into that lake of fire we so justly deserved. But with that conception God set in motion the greatest gift to mankind- salvation. The gift that began as the fulfillment of the prophecy program foretold since the world began of Israel became after their fall and temporary time out the gift of the grace of God! The gospel of the death of Christ for the forgiveness of the sins past present and future of all who place their faith in Him, his burial for the removal of them eternally and His resurrection the third day for our justification. When we believe that we are saved, sealed by the Spirit and eternally seated in heavenly places in Christ. Christ, Jesus, the precious miracle conceived that late December some 2000 years ago. That’s what I rejoice over, that’s what I give thanks for, that’s what I glory and joy in. And not just one day in December but every second of everyday, with my every breath. I do it without traditions and trappings that take my mind off the most incredible gift my eventual eternal salvation through the shed blood of Jesus. May you remember that today and everyday and share that perfect gift with everyone you meet, not just in this day but everyday. Give the gift of eternal life through the sharing of the gospel of the grace of God!
As always my beloved brothers and sisters in Christ may you be eternally gripped in His glorious grace.