Growing up in an agnostic family, we didn’t celebrate the birth of Jesus; so when I became a Christian I just nodded my head along with basic story of Jesus’s birth. The only knowledge that I had consisted of the lyrics of famous hymns like, “Away in a Manger” and “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” The past few years, God has revealed several things to me as I transition our relationship from knowing of to intimate relationship with the Almighty King. In the midst of being frustrated with society’s outlook of the true meaning of Christmas, I decided that maybe it was time that I dug a little deeper into this epic event. I believe that God has a sense of humor because when I ask him to reveal his knowledge I was expecting tablespoons, but he gave me shovels full of richness. I’m still trying to process it all, but here are five amazing things about Jesus’s birth.
1. December 25th is a myth…
It is predicted that Jesus’s birth actually happened mid to late September due to the factors of the Angel Gabriel’s announcement, Elizabeth’s pregnancy, and Mary’s gestational cycle. In addition, agricultural historians believe that it was mid fall because anything later than October, the sheep would not have been in the pasture because they needed shelter and warmth during the winter months. Therefore, if the sheep are not in the pasture in December, the shepherds wouldn’t have been there to hear the angel’s announcement of Jesus’s birth. The December 25th myth started at the end of the 3rd century because the Roman church officials wanted to coincide Jesus’s birth with the pagan winter festivals that honor Saturn (Roman god of agriculture) and Mithra (Persian god of light). The Roman church officials believed that it would be easier to convince the Roman citizens to accept Christianity as the empire’s official religion.
Luke 2:8 “That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep.” (NLT)
2. Location, Location, Location…
Personally, I get lost very easily; therefore, I always got confused in trying to understand the various locations that were mentioned with Jesus’s birth/childhood. Basically, Daddy Joseph and Mommy Mary (with baby inside) traveled to Bethlehem because Caesar Augustus wanted to take a census for tax purposes. The interesting thing about the city’s name of Bethlehem is that the Hebrew translation for this city’s name is ‘House of Meat’ and the Greek translation is ‘House of Bread’. It’s interesting because Jesus referred to himself as meat and bread several times throughout the New Testament.
Luke 22:19 “He took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” (NLT)
From there, the family traveled to Jerusalem to consecrate (set apart) Jesus in accordance with the Law of the Lord. Once in the temple court area, the Holy Spirit spoke through both Simeon and Anna – two elders prophetically proclaiming that the Savior has come.
Luke 2:30 – “I (Simeon) have seen your salvation,”
Luke 2:38 – “Coming up to them at that very moment, she (Anna) gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.”
Soon King Herod declares a law that all male children within the area to be killed in fear of the prophecy that he would lose his kingship and reign. In an attempt to protect his family, Joseph flees with them to the country of Egypt until an angel of the Lord reports to Joseph about King Herod’s death. At this report, the family travels back to Nazareth, the hometown of Joseph and Mary. The interesting thing about the city’s name of Nazareth is that it can be translated to mean ‘branch’. This city was already prophetically proclaimed by Isaiah 11:1 when he said that a branch will grow and bear fruit from the roots of Jesse (in referencing the linage of David). However, this city was regarded as being of poor quality and negative throughout Jesus’s childhood and into his 3 year ministry.
John 1:46 – “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.”
3. The First to Know…
With David having the family role of being a shepherd and Jesus so often being described as ‘the good shepherd’, it is of no coincidence that God sent an angel to the shepherds first to proclaim the birth of Jesus. However, the shepherds in the Bethlehem were known as specialists of raising sheep and lambs used for sacrificial purposes. When God spoke through the angel in describing how to find baby Jesus, this was more than just directions, but a prophetic statement. The manger that the angel spoke of that they would find baby Jesus sleeping in was more like a trough that the shepherds would use to place newborn lambs in. The swaddling that the angel spoke of that Mary wrapped baby Jesus in was more like the cloth material that the shepherds would use to swaddle the newborn lambs so that they would not scratch and scar themselves – thus unblemished. It wasn’t that it was unusual that Jesus, the Savior of the world, was found like this, but instead a detailed prophetic statement sent through messengers of God to mankind. The shepherds instantly knew that this baby was special and was going to be specially used by God himself to redeem the world.
Luke 2:12 – “And this is what will prove it to you: you will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a manger.”
4. 3 Smart Dudes…
It is a misconception to believe that there were only three wise men that visited baby Jesus, as well as, that they visited baby Jesus soon after his birth. In fact, it is believed that there could have been dozens of magi (wise men) that visited and it is predicted that they visited him when he was around the age of 18 months – 2 years old. Many scholars believe that this misconception stems from the porcelain nativity scene so often displayed in homes.
Matthew 2:11 – “And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.”
5. The Gifts…
Similar to now, gold was an extremely valuable commodity during this time and incredibly rare for common/poor families to have. Yes, it could be thought of that the wise men were giving the parents money to help with the needs of child – similar to how we give new parents money to help with cost. However, when this gift was presented, it was a prophetic statement from God through the wise men in saying that this child was special, was going to be king, and was going to reign over all people.
Frankincense was regarded as an amazing herbal ingredient that had a plethora of uses for healing. This item was easily found and often used for all types of ailments ranging from cuts, to stomach issues, to sore throats, and more. Any new family would have appreciated this herbal ingredient with a boy toddler running around the house. However, when this gift was presented, it was a prophetic statement from God through the wise men in saying that this child was going to grow up into a man with amazing healing powers ranging from restoring sight, recovering hearing, and resurrecting life.
Personally, I believe the last gift of myrrh is the most interesting item. This medical type of substance is mentioned in the Bible 17 times and is the crucial ingredient in making perfume and the holy anointing oil prescribed by God. Myrrh is found in scripture within the story of Joseph as he was being sold into slavery (Genesis 37:25), Esther as she was being purified before being presented to King Xerxes (Esther 2:12), and throughout all of the chapters of the book, Song of Solomon. Scholars believe that myrrh was the main ingredient that the woman used as she broke open the alabaster jar over Jesus.
Matthew 26:7 – “A woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.”
However, when this gift was presented, it was a prophetic statement from God through the wise men in relationship to his death. God symbolized the element of myrrh especially because it was used in embalming dead bodies and could be used as an analgesia – to numb pain. This element directly leads to Jesus’s painful death on the cross as he took on the sins of the world.
Mark 15:23 – “They tried to give Him wine mixed with myrrh; but He did not take it.”
As He hung there, barely able to breathe, shoulders dislocated, been physically tortured and abused, mocked and rejected, so disfigured that He did not even look like a man, He could not drink it because He had to take on the fullness of our sin without any ease of pain. God had to look away because in His righteousness He could not look at sin; and Jesus embodied it until death. I don’t know about you, but this makes my stomach and heart ache.
These gifts from the wise men were not just random gifts of goodness, but the foreshadowing of the blessings of God unto all of mankind.
Knowing that God has as many characteristics as depth, I’m sure that this isn’t all that He wants to reveal to me about this story of a baby named Jesus.