Was Jesus really born on December 25? I’m not sure. The first to fix the date at December 25 seems to have been a third century Christian leader named Hippolytus. He believed that Jesus’ earthly life, from conception to crucifixion, was exactly 33 years. He also beleived that both conception and crucifixion took place on March 25. Caculating a nine month pregnancy from March 25 resulted in a birthday of December 25. There were other early Christian leaders who favored other dates. January 6, March 28, April 18, and May 20 were some of the accepted dates. By the middle of the 4th century, the Christian world was divided over the celebration. Some celebrated in December while others celebrated in January. And to this very day, there are still some segments of Christianity that who celebrate January 6 as the birthday of the Christ.
In the early to mid 6th century, a Scythian monk known as Dionysius the Little proposed that Christians around the world adopt a calendar that would date everything from the birth of Jesus. While working on the development of an Easter cycle calendar, Dionysius adopted Hippolytus’ position on December 25 as the birthdate of the Christ. But in devising the new calendar (before Christ & Anno Domini), his calculation of the years was just a bit skewed.
According to such historically documented events as the death of Herod the Great, the beginning of the ministry of John the Baptizer, and the building of the Temple in Jerusalem, it would seem that Dionysius’ calendar is off target by 4-5 years. IF that is true, then Jesus was really born somewhere between 5b.c. and 4b.c.
Trying to determine the exact birthdate of Jesus can interesting and even fascinating, but not really important. What IS important is that according to Galatians 4:4-5, “But when the time was right, God sent forth His Son . . .” Jesus came at exactly the right time. God the Father had a plan for the world that had been in place since the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:15) and He followed that plan to perfection. When God the Father felt that the time was right for the coming of the Savior, He sent His only begotten Son “born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.”
This year, as you reflect on the events surrounding that first Christmas, think about this: “It’s not the date that we celebrate. It’s the timing. It is a celebration of God’s initiative in meeting the needs of a sinful humanity. It’s a celebration of God the Son stepping out of the throne room of heaven across the stars into a stable in Bethlehem. His motivation was pure love for a creation gone awry. His purpose was to fulfill the requirement of the law, that the wages of sin is death. Even in the star that marked the place of His birth was the shape of a cross. And it was at the Cross, that earth’s greatest battle was fought. With the victorycry, “It is finished!,” redemption from the penalty of our sins was complete and available to all who would trust Him.
When the time was right, Jesus came into our world to free us from the guilt of our sins and, by His resurrection, to offer to us the gift of eternal life. But like any gift, it can only be yours if you take possession of it. Perhaps today is the right time for you to say YES to Jesus. John 1:12-13 says, “. . . to as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become the children of God . . . not of natural descent or human decision, but born of God.” Would YOU receive the gift of forgiveness and eternal life by trusting Jesus as your Lord and Savior this Christmas? The time is right . . . now!