Date of Christ’s Birth

(written December 19, 2019)

angels nativity

On what date did Mary give birth to our Lord Jesus Christ? Do we know? December 25th?

But, wait: Didn’t the Romans have a December “Saturnalia” pagan festival, or a holiday of the mid-winter sun, which the Church just “Christianized” as Jesus’ birthday?

No. The Christian feast of the Nativity of pre-dates the Roman pagan celebrations.

But wouldn’t it help if the Bible itself told us that Jesus was born on December 25?

Yes, but: The New Testament would hardly use a date from the Roman calendar. The Jews, including the Apostles and their co-workers, reckoned dates according to the Hebrew calendar–which doesn’t have “December.” The Hebrew calendar has different months, of different lengths.

Let’s try to see the matter of recording Christ’s birthday from the point-of-view of the Apostles and Evangelists. They would not have thought it necessary to write down Jesus’ birth date. Everyone knew when it was. They would have observed the birthday of the Lord as a great feast day, just like we do.

So how about this: Is there anything in the New Testament that can corroborate the traditional date, December 25?

Yes. We read it at holy Mass today.

Zechariah saw the angel in the Temple during the term of priestly service of the clan of Abijah. Each clan had two annual terms of service. But this one fell on a major feast day, as we read. The clan of Abijah served during Yom Kippur and the Feast of Tabernacles. End of September through the beginning of October (according to the Roman calendar).

Zechariah and Elizabeth conceived St. John the Baptist upon Zechariah’s return home. When the angel came to the Blessed Mother to announce the coming of Christ, Elizabeth was in her sixth month. (End of March, beginning of April.) Which means:

Jesus was born at the end of December or the beginning of January.

So the New Testament does indeed corroborate the tradition that, reckoned on the Roman calendar, Mary gave birth to Jesus on December 25.

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