Advent Day 17 – The Real Date of Jesus’ birth is . . .

“While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son” (Luke 2:6).

One of the great theological debates centers around the time of Jesus’ birth verses our traditional celebration of December 25th.  The Bible does not identify the specific date nor season and scholars and astronomers have attempted to track the date by presence of the shepherds and the star that guided the wise men (Matthew 2:2).  The early Christian church did not celebrate the birth of Jesus for three centuries.  History reports that the church in Rome designated December 25 in the late 3rd Century, and many historians note that the day coincided with existing pagan festivals, possibly as a way to appeal to the citizens and ease their acceptance of Christianity.[1]  That is not to suggest that the Christian church should abandon the celebration of Jesus’ birth – it marks the incarnation of the Son of God and is an important doctrinal and theological statement.

I think God is very wise in not identifying the date.  Even without a specific date the world has turned the traditional day to honor Jesus’ birth into a less-than-holy season of materialism, commercialism, and revelry. But we can identify when Jesus was born.

“When the time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might received the full rights of sons.”  Galatians 4:4

“When the time had fully come.” God had the exact date of Jesus’ birth circled on His calendar – but it is not a paper calendar of grids and numbers like I have hanging near my desk.  As I look at my calendar, Christmas is only 6 days away, the car payment is due in 3 days, the rent is due in 13 days.  I’m planning when to leave this morning to be at work on time.  But God is not restricted to days and hours.  His is a calendar of a divine order and a timeline with every detail of human history already mapped out from “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3) to “Yes, I am coming soon” (Revelation 22:20).  Events are not planned according to schedules (Do NOT plan your wedding during college football season!), they are planned according to His perfect wisdom and sovereign authority.

Beloved, you and I are part of God’s perfectly ordered plan.  He has designated certain things to occur in and around your life and mine according to a greater schedule than T.V. shows, football games, birthdays or days of the week – and He has a plan to bring these things about.  That brings me tremendous comfort and I hope it does for you too.  Perhaps you, like me, are in a waiting season – a holding pattern if you will.  God has spoken a promise to you but in the present moment it seems more like a long-lost dream.  Hold on.  Wait with confidence.  Keep your hope alive.  He who promised is faithful (Hebrews 10:23).  God will bring about what He has planned – when the time has fully come.

Read Ephesians 1:3-14

[1], accessed December 19, 2017.


When was Jesus Really Born?

A friend recently asked me about the validity of celebrating Jesus’ birth on December 25th.  The Bible doesn’t put a date on a calendar, and while we can get a good idea from tracing the astronomical records of a unique star, no one wrote the exact date into the annuals of human history.  Many people have commented that shepherds would never have their flocks out in a field or on a hillside where they would be exposed to frigid temperatures.  But several scholars have noted that generally, the temperature does not drop to those levels until after our traditional Christmas season, so there is reason to assume we’re pretty close.

I did say that the Bible doesn’t give us a precise date, but it does actually tell us when Jesus was born.  Galatians 4:4 says, “When the time had fully came, God sent His Son, born of a woman.”  I find so much comfort in that.    The Bible is chock-full of references to time, from the record of Creation to “the day [when] His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives.”   God actually does have a calendar of sorts – a divine calendar – and all of human history flows according to the plans He made before the creation of the world.  Everything will happen “when the time has fully come.” 

I hope you take that personally.  Because the same God who established the universe’s timeline has your name on His calendar too.  He is moving in your life according to His purpose and design.  He is making things and people and events come together just as He planned.  Beloved, your life is not some crazy quilt with pieces of all shapes, sizes and colors haphazardly sewn together.  It is a work of beauty, precision and exactness, stitched firmly together with blood-red cords.  Every moment of your life has been leading up to the magnificent finished project that will be revealed “when the time has fully come.”

So feel free to celebrate the birth of Christ on December 25th with joy and thanksgiving for God’s perfect, divine plan.  And remember that He’s an “on-time” God.  It won’t be a second late.  Nor will it be a second early.  It will be “when the time has fully come.”