Updated: Jan 6, 2021
Many people hold a rather derisive view of Christmas these days.
First, there's the issue of Christmas' commercialization. There's an easy answer to that -- in the immortal words of Ebenezer Scrooge, "I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year." Do you give gifts with ulterior motives, or to bless others and experience the sheer joy of giving, the way God gives to us? Hopefully, it's the latter. Commercialization is cured by your heart.
Then there's the political incorrectness of saying "Merry Christmas," which might offend someone who observes Kwanzaa or Hanukkah. Or nothing. For the past ten years I have made certain to say, "Merry Christmas" so that I won't be considered politically correct or to be avoiding the proclamation of my Christianity. News flash: There's no problem with saying "Happy Holidays" or "Season's Greetings" UNLESS you're saying it to avoid acknowledging Jesus! Political correctness is not scriptural. Political correctness is not Godly.
Lately, though, there is one reason I hear most often when somebody is degrading or at least minimizing the significance of Christmas or their participation in it. That is that December 25 isn't actually Jesus' birthday.
When was Jesus actually born?
There's very good reasoning to support Jesus' birth in Autumn. The Jewish Feast of Booths, aka Feast of Tabernacles, Feast of Shelters, Feast of Ingathering and Sukkot, is much like our Thanksgiving -- a harvest celebration. It is celebrated in the seventh Jewish month of Tishri, overlapping our September and October. Sukkot is one of the three pilgrimage feasts in Judaism. As the story I was told goes, all year long, the women would save leftover bits of wool and the coarser fibers from their spinning and weaving projects. These they wove into coarse, cheap lengths of cloth that they took with them on the journey to the city for festival time, because the nights of celebration required illumination. Jerusalem in those days was decisively lacking in street lights. They would fill barrels or large urns with oil, and these lengths of cloth, contributed by attendees, would serve as wicks for making these street lanterns. What do you suppose this cloth was called? Have you guessed it? Yes, swaddling cloth. Mary would have had swaddling cloth with her to take to Bethlehem to be counted, had the time of year also have been that of the Feast of Booths.
The case for Jesus being born in springtime is just as beautiful and compelling. It revolves around Jesus, the Lamb of God, being born in Bethlehem, the birthplace also of David, the shepherd-king of Israel. It is the town where the sacrificial lambs, perfect first-born male lambs, were cared for before being sold to those who sought to atone for their sins. Swaddling cloth plays it's part in this story too, as another use was to wrap a protective layer around these perfect lambs for warmth, protection from thorns, cuts and scrapes, and to keep them clean. Added info - January 6, 2021: These strips of cloth are also of the type used as "grave clothes," evidence of the fact that Jesus was born to die for mankind. Migdal Eder, the Tower of the Flock, earlier a military fortress, stood on the road to Jerusalem and provided not only protection for shepherds, but it was where ewes were taken for lambing. According to prophesies by Micah (4:8), it is likely the structure in which Jesus was actually born. Mary giving birth to Jesus there would further the example of Him as the sacrificial Lamb of God. The first lambing season would have been early spring, so it would have been springtime when those shepherds had the flocks of sacrificial lambs out in the fields at night, keeping watch over them.
As to a winter birth, Hanukkah being celebrated around the same time as Christmas is no accident. After the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in 168 BC by Antiochus and his army, they erected a statue of Zeus with the face of Antiochus, right in the center of the temple. The Maccabbees rebuilt the altar after three years of guerilla warfare, and on Kislev 25, 165 BC, they rededicated the temple to God. Kislev is the Jewish month that occurs roughly when we have December, and the word Hanukkah means dedication. The early Church later chose December 25 because they took over the birthday of the Greek god Zeus/Roman god Jupiter. So you see, the early church didn't even know Jesus' birth date, they just chose a date that seemed appropriate.
It's amazing how Christianity's Jewish roots shine through our celebrations. But we still haven't come any closer to figuring out Jesus' DOB.
Jesus' birthdate, like Moses,' was hidden from the enemy. At both times in history, the spirit of Herod went to work soon after their births, killing all the male children under the age of two. This was an attempt to wipe out, first, the one that would save the Israelites and lead them into the Promised Land, a picture of Jesus to come, and them to kill Jesus Himself -- the Savior of the the entire world, Jews and Gentiles alike.
Why is it so difficult to figure out Jesus' birthday? Because God hid it! He hid it to hide the baby Jesus from Herod's butchers. If God hides something, it's hidden. And if He hid it, why would He expect us to know it now? Apparently He really doesn't care that we're not celebrating on the proper date, or He would have revealed it to us. Let's just concentrate on honoring the spirit of Christmas every day of the year. That spirit is "Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth, peace, goodwill toward men."
Jesus is our Perfect Atonement:
Born in a fortress -- He is our strong tower
Born in Bethlehem, the town from which all the sacrificial lambs came, and which means "House of Bread" -- He is our Daily Bread, the Bread of Life, the Living Manna
Born the firstborn male -- just like the other sacrificial lambs
Wrapped in swaddling clothes -- signifying He is our Sacrificial Lamb, born to die
Laid in a manger, a trough made for feeding the flock -- "Take, eat, this is My Body which
was broken for you."
...Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given...
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begottten Son,
that whosoever believes in Him would not perish but have everlasting life.