Scholars agree that Yeshua was probably not born on 25th December, year 0. In fact, there is no year 0! So when WAS he born?
There are two main schools of thought – the prevailing opinion is that he was probably conceived at Hanukkah and born during the festival of Sukkot, which celebrates God “tabernacling” or dwelling with us!
The only solid Biblical clue we have is to work backwards from the scheduled priestly rota of Zechariah (John the Baptist’s father) in the temple. We know that Gabriel was sent to announce the Good News to Mary precisely when Elizabeth was six months pregnant with John the Baptist – therefore six months after Zechariah’s clan was signed up for temple duty. This requires some digging around in the books of Chronicles to check which clan served in which month…
1 Chronicles 24 and 28 describe the fixing of temple duties by King David. The priests were divided into 24 divisions, taking turns to serve a week each. The division of Abijah, which Zechariah belonged to about one thousand years later, was likely to have served in the middle of the third Jewish month, Sivan (which corresponds to May or June, depending on how the Jewish calendar lines up with ours) and also a second stint in the month of Tishrei, which corresponds with our September or October. This means that Yeshua was made flesh six months after either Sivan or Tishrei.
If Zechariah had his shocking visit during Sivan, that means Yeshua would have been made flesh in the womb of Mary in December, and would have been born nine months after that, when all the Jewish festivals were happening: The Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles – which is all about God “tabernacling” with us. Emmanuel!
Also, there is a Jewish tradition that says the Messiah would come ‘secretly at Hanukah and publicly at Sukkot’. It’s possible that God in his mercy did send Yeshua as a seed in the womb at Hanukah time, and was born to a rapturous welcome of shepherds, animals and angels during Sukkot!
However, if the angel visited Zechariah in his second stint that year, during Tishrei, then Yeshua would have been in the womb around the time of Passover, and born nine months later, in December. Church tradition has December as his birthday from quite early on, and it’s hard to know why they would have changed it if it was really in September.
Clearly we do not have the liberty to be dogmatic about the exact dates as it is so hard for us to discern from the sources we have. What we do know is that our God makes no mistakes, and his timing is perfect. He has his times and his seasons and he always has powerful reasoning in his plans.
Glory to God in the highest for sending Yeshua to live among us! Peace and goodwill to all men, who now can have peace with a holy God! Praise the Lord for the incarnation! God with us, Emmanuel.
We wish you a blessed time of celebrating the birth of our saviour and Messiah.
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