Friday, December 22, 2006

Jesus born Dec.25?

Recently I have heard some skeptics and critics trumpet the historical discrepencies concerning the date of Christ's birth as a strike against the Christian faith. As if our worship of Christ and his birth is somehow tarnished because we commemorate December 25th as the time of rememberance, while it is highly unlikely this was the actual time of the year when it happened.

Let me begin with the intellectual response: "Duh!" So why is December the time that we celebrate the Advent?

First some background from Lee Strobel: History doesn’t pinpoint Jesus’ birthday. Spring is most likely, because shepherds were watching their flocks at night and this is when ewes bore their young. In fact, around a.d. 200, theologians concluded Jesus was born on May 20. “Others,” said journalist Terry Mattingly, “argued for dates in April and March. This wasn’t a major issue, since early Christians emphasized the Epiphany on January 6, marking Christ’s baptism.”

Said Christian researcher Gretchen Passantino: “They understood that Christ’s birth was the incarnation of the eternal Son of God. It was around a.d. 200 that celebration of Christ’s birth was added to the crowded church calendar. Those churches who chose to celebrate it did so on various days and months.”

In a.d. 385, Pope Julius I declared December 25 as the day for celebrating Christ’s birth. “He chose that date,” Passantino told me, “partly to challenge the pagan celebration of the Roman god Saturnalia, which was characterized by social disorder and immorality.”

Unlike the death and resurrection, which is specifally detailed in Scripture by it's concurrence with the annual Passover celebration...does it really matter what time of year the Nativity took place? Christmas in July would be no less significant.

Eventually the Church said, "Let's just pick a date of commemoration so we can all be on the same page." The intent was never to say, "This is the time when it happened." The intent was to set up a specific time when we can celebrate the most amazing event in the history of mankind: God taking on flesh to walk among men and bring the message of salvation to the entire world!