Is December 25 the birthday of Jesus Christ?

Selie Visa

Christmas (Christ + Mass) is not a literal birthday nor was Jesus born on 25th December. It is a day for religious service in commemoration of the incarnation of Christ.

The Bible account mentions the shepherds watching over their flocks in the fields by night. So it is unlikely that Jesus was born in December since sheep are not kept out-door during such cold seasons.

Some Christians disapprove the celebration of Christmas because historically it coincides with Saturnalia, the week-long pagan feasting. But there is nothing wrong in setting aside a special day to commemorate the incarnation of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Redeemer, who took on flesh and pitched his tent amongst mankind.

Romans 14:5-8 explains that the observance of a special day and eating meat are not imperative in our spiritual life. They neither enhance nor minimize our standing before God. What counts is the motivation and the desire to honour the Lord in what we do. As long as our religious celebrations like Christmas or Easter are Christ-centric the name of the Lord will be glorified and they will be a blessing to us.

Christmas has several amazing facts which are not so obvious to us. 700 years before Jesus was born, God inspired the prophet Micah to name the very place where Jesus would be born… in Bethlehem. 

Micah 5:2 "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times."

Mary and Joseph lived in Galilee in the small village of Nazareth. So how can this prophecy be fulfilled? Augustus Caesar passed a decree for a census which would help the Romans to collect taxes more accurately. In most provinces under the Roman Empire the people registered in the city where they lived. But the ancestral descent was so esteemed by the Jews that the Romans made a special concession for them and ordered them to go to the place of their birth to register their names. Both Mary and Joseph were of the royal family of David. As Bethlehem was the city of David, it was there that they had to go. Incidentally, the same practice was allowed in Egypt and Gaul.

The Bible account of the birth of Jesus Christ mentions the shepherds watching their flocks by night. So, Jesus was not born in December because sheep are not kept out in the open fields during the cold season.

However, the question is not impossible to answer because of the history of the Roman Empire and especially that of Herod the Great. Six months after the massacre of the innocents in his vain attempt to kill the baby Jesus, Herod the Great died in the Jewish month of Nisan (April). 5 B.C. Many Bible scholars think that killing the innocent children brought swift judgement upon Herod the Great. He contracted a dreadful unknown disease which racked his entire body with extreme pain and died a painful death.

Therefore, Jesus was born in early autumn, i.e. during the month of September, 5 B.C. The Roman Emperor Augustus Caesar passed the degree for the census in 8 B.C. Herod the Great did not carry out the royal decree immediately for fear of displeasing the Jews. Herod carried out the royal diktat for the census after 3 years. Therefore 5 B.C. (8 - 3 = 5) is the approximate year of the birth of Jesus Christ. 

Unknown to anyone, Herod the Great carried out the imperial decree only when it was time for Mary to gave birth to the Messiah conceived through the Holy Spirit. The prophecy that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem was fulfilled. God's word will come to pass no matter what.

It is also known to us that Jesus was not born in 1 A.D. Dionysius Exiguus the Roman monk divided human history into two parts-- before the birth of Christ and after the birth of Christ. But he make a mistake of a few years. This error has never been corrected.

Christmas is not a traditional or a cultural festival. It is the religious service in commemoration of the incarnation. It is a time to worship God with joy and gratitude for his greatest gift to mankind, his only begotten son.