Brethren Archive

The Birthday of Jesus Christ.

by W.H. Dorman Jnr

ALTHOUGH the 25th December has been recognized by the Church for many ages as the day on which the Lord was born, it has been generally believed that this is only an ecclesiastical tradition devoid of any substantial support, and that it cannot be traced back earlier than the third century. However, in very carefully following the events of the earliest days of the Lord's entrance into His life of public ministry, I was surprised to find that it is hard to come to any other conclusion (putting together the combined testimony of the three Evangelists who deal with that period), than that His birthday must have fallen near that time of year, and I feel little doubt that Christmas Day is really the anniversary of the Lord's birth.
The first date that we have in the early public life of Jesus is given us in John ii. 13, in the words, "And the passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem." We will now follow step by step, the events which took place between the Lord's baptism and that first Easter when in the language of John, ''He came to His Own things, and they that were His Own received Him not"; and then try to form some idea of the time that must have elapsed between those two points.
Luke iii. 23 tells us that Jesus, when He began to teach, was about thirty years of age, and if we remember that thirty years was the age when the Levite took up his service according to the law, there is little doubt but that that divine order was recognized by Jesus, and that He was just turned thirty when He commenced His service. That is to say that He had just passed His thirtieth birthday when He came to John to be baptized. After His baptism, He went away into the wilderness to the scene of the temptation, where He remained for six weeks. In John i. 29, we find Him returning out of the wilderness to John, and He stayed in that neighbourhood for two or three days, and John i. 43 tells us of His departure westward and northward, His journey ending, as we learn from Luke iv. 16, at Nazareth. On the first Sabbath after His arrival, as I suppose, He opened His ministry in the Synagogue there. Luke describes His first discourse and the reception He met with, and it also says in verse 31, He came down to Capernaum. But for what passed between that Sabbath and His arrival at Capernaum we must be indebted to John, who describes for us the marriage in Cana at which he says Jesus' disciples, as well as his mother, were present. Now as He could not have had disciples until He had begun to be a teacher, it is obvious that the marriage in Cana must have taken place after His public advent in that character. It is evident also that the interview with Nathanael took place at that time, for everything points to the personal status of Jesus having changed, and that He had already assumed the functions of His mission. Both Luke and John tell us of His leaving Nazareth and going to reside in Capernaum, where He went with His mother, His brethren and His disciples, and that town afterwards is spoken of as His Own city. Doubtless the reason of His leaving the town where all His life up to that time had been spent was the rejection that He met with when He first publicly announced Himself as "the Lord's Servant" (in Isaiah), the Messiah of Israel. He declared that "a prophet is not without honour, save in His own country, and among His own kin." John ii. 12 tells us that He abode in Capernaum not many days, that is to say, I suppose, that He settled His mother and family in their new abode, for it would seem that by this time, Joseph was dead, and He, as the eldest son, was head of the household. John also tells us that this was just before the passover, and that Jesus went up so Jerusalem to that feast.
We will now try to form an idea how long these events would take. From the time that Jesus came to John, including His visit, His journey into the wilderness, His stay there, His return, and His little stay by Jordan, till He went on to Galilee, could hardly be less than eight weeks. The journey to Nazareth would take nearly another week. His stay at Nazareth, which included His Sabbath at the Synagogue, and visit to Cana, and intercourse with Philip and Nathanael, and His family removal to Capernaum, could be hardly less than three weeks. Then if we allow a fortnight for His stay in Capernaum, including His journey to Jerusalem, we should have about fourteen weeks. The time from Christmas to Easter varies, but is on the average about fourteen weeks.
It is not pretended that these estimated times are at all exact, but I think it is evident that they must be approximate, and that we have good reason to believe that the day which throughout the Christian world is set apart for the remembrance of the Lord's coming into this world is really the anniversary of His birth in Bethlehem. We have so long been in the habit of thinking that there was no real evidence that Christmas Day was the Lord's birthday, that it is immensely interesting to find that the testimony of the New Testament leads one to believe that that actually was the day.
"The Faith and the Flock" 1910

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