What Really happened on Christmas day ?

C 1999 "Yes Lord" Ministries (Bible Study Net) 
What Really Happened on Christmas Day?

It is that very special time of the year again (this is being written in December of 1999) and it seems that almost everyone is rushing around buying and wrapping presents, putting up Christmas trees, stringing lights, cooking yummy delacies, going to Christmas plays and concerts, attending parties, and just generally enjoying this special time of the year.

Christmas!?  What is so special about Christmas?   Why do we celebrate it?  And, what happened on Christmas anyway?

Of course, we have been told and told and told -- that the Lord Jesus Christ was BORN on Christmas day!  But, was He?

Well, to answer those questions, let's begin at the beginning.  We'll read some passages in the Bible which tell us about Christ and the events leading up to His Birth.  Then we will do some "research" and fit the pieces together.  I think you will be suprised and thrilled at what you will learn!  Ready?  OK!  Let's begin.

Read the following verses from the Book of Luke (in the New Testament of the Bible), and, as you read these verses (printed out here for you), underline or put a RED circle around every reference to a PERSON and underline or put a BLUE circle around every reference to a specific TIME period. (Of course you may use any color or symbol you wish to mark these things, these are only suggestions.) I will do a few (see verses 5-11 & verse 24) to show you how.  Then you continue on your own.
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LUKE 1: 5-47, 56-60   NIV

5.  In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah (Abia); his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. 6. Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord's commandments and regulations blamelessly. 7. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years. 8. Once when Zechariah's division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, 9.  he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10.  And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside. 11. Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12. When  Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13.  But the angel said to him: "Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. 14.  He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15.  for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. 16. Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. 17.  And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous--to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." 18.  Zechariah asked the angel, "How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years." 19. The angel answered, "I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time."  21.  Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. 22. When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak. 23. When his time of service was completed, he returned home. 24. After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. 25. "The Lord has done this for me," she said. "In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people." 26. In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27. to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. 28. The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you." 29. Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.30. But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 31. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33. and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end." 34.  "How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?"  35.  The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called  the Son of God. 36. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month.37. For nothing is impossible with God." 38.  "I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." Then the angel left her. 39. At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40. where she entered Zechariah's home and greeted Elizabeth. 41. When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42. In a loud voice she exclaimed: "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!  43.  But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44.  As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.  45.  Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!" 46. And Mary said: "My soul glorifies the Lord  47. and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, ... ...  56. Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home. 57.  When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. 58. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy. 59. On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah,  60. but his mother spoke up and said, "No! He is to be called John."  ... ...
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Hmmmmm. Very interesting.  But what does all this mean? Why did we mark the names of  Zechariah and Elizabeth and John?  What do they have to do with the birth of Jesus?  And why were we marking the times? What is so important about marking 5 months in verse 24, and the 6th month in verses 25 and 36, and "at that time" in verse 39, and 3 months in verse 56? (You did mark those time periods, didn't you?  Yes, I thought so. Great!)

Well, let's look at some very interesting and pertinent information and then I think you will understand why we read and marked those verses in Luke.

First of all, for those of us who are not Jews and are not familiar with Jewish customs, it is important to know how the Priests were assigned to their specific "tours of duty" (divisions, courses).

Look back at Luke 1:5.  What did this tell you about Zechariah?  He was a  ________________ in the division (course) of  ______________.

And, who was the King of Judah at the time? (see verse 5) ______________ .

Yes!  Zechariah was a Priest in the division (course in KJV) of Abijah (Abia in KJV). And Herod was the King of Judah.  But, why is that important?

Well, according to 1 Chronicles 24:7-19,  there are 24 divisions (courses) of Priests, of which Abijah (Abia) is one.  Each Priest, and there were many, was assigned to one of the divisions.  Each division was, in turn, assigned to serve in the Temple twice a year.  The "tour of duty" of these divisions would change every week with the change beginning with each Sabbath.  The first course was served by the division of Jehoiarib....the eighth course to Abijah (Abia) ... and etc. as noted in 1 Chronicles 24:7,10.

Now, according to and quoting (and paraphrasing) from a little booklet entitled "The Real Christmas Story -- The Word Became Flesh" by C.E. McLain D. D. (printed in 1974 by Southwest Radio Church -- POBox 1144, Oklahoma City, Ok 73101):

"The reckoning (of the assignment for the division of Abijah) began on the 22nd of Tisri - October 6. This was the eighth and last day of the Feast of Tabernacles -- the great day of the feast (John 7:37), and was a Sabbath (Lev. 23:39:)

The first administration of the eighth course fell upon the 12-18 of Chisleu--(Dec. 6-12); whereas the second administration of the eighth course was the 12-18 of Silvan -- (June 13-19.)

It was during this second administration of the eighth course (of Abijah)  when the announcement (by the Angel of the Lord) to Zachariah in the temple concerning the conception of John the Baptist) occurred.  Therefore, this must have taken place between the 12-18 of Silvan -- June 13-19, in the year 5 BC, since we know that Herod was King of Judea at that time and we know the schedule of when Zechariah's division of Priests were assigned to Temple service.

Read verse 23 & 24 again.  What happened when Zechariah finished his tour of service?  He returned  _____________ and after this his wife  ______________________ and remained in seclusion for ______ months.

Yes, he went home and his wife, Elizabeth, became pregnant and remained in seclusion for 5 months.

Home?  Where did Zechariah and Elizabeth live? Well, we don't know for sure but it is thought by most scholars that they lived in Juttah, which was a City in which the Levitical priesthood lived.  Juttah was located about 30 miles south of Jerusalem. 

Remember, they did not have cars in those days, so Zechariah probably walked back home, since walking or riding on a horse or donkey was the main mode of transportation in those days.  Walked!  30 Miles!  Wow!

And, since the day following the ending of his course was a Sabbath --Silvan 19, (remember,  the courses began on a Sabbath and his had just ended), then he would not be able to Leave Jerusalem until the day after the Sabbath, which would be Silvan 20.  Also remember that Zechariah was old (look again at verse 7 which tells us that he and Elizabeth were ______________________ . Yes, "well along in years", which to you young folks means "old!"

Anyway, the point is that, since he was an "old" man and was probably traveling on foot (or a slow horse or donkey),  the time needed to walk or traverse the 30 miles would probably be about 2 days (though I am not so sure I could travel 30 miles by foot in 2 days and I am not really "old"... how about you?) But, assuming that it did take approximately two days, he would not arrive at home until about the evening of the 21st.  Then, allowing a day of rest, the conception of John would occur on the 23rd of Silvan (June 24).

Now look at verses 26 and 36.  When, according to these verses did the Angel appear to Mary? ____________ months AFTER Elizabeth became pregnant.

When Mary went to visit Elizabeth, was Mary already "with child" (carrying the Baby Jesus)? ____________

Yes, Mary was carrying Jesus in her womb when she went to visit Elizabeth.  How do we know?  What happened when Mary arrived at the home of Elizabeth and Zachariah? (Hint read v. 41-44 before you answer:)
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Yes, John (the Baptist), who was in the womb of his mother, Elizabeth, leaped with joy when Jesus, in the womb of Mary, entered the house !  Wow!  Astounding!  Awesome!  (And, by the way, this also is further evidence and proof that babies, while still in their mother's wombs and not yet born, are REAL babies and are not just "globs of tissue". But that is another topic for another study, so we will only make that passing comment and then continue with the subject at hand.)

Returning to our "calculations" of WHEN Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of Mary -- let's summarize what we know:

When does it seem likely that John (the Baptist) was conceived:  (circle your answer from the choices below)

January 1, 00
23 of Silvan (June 24, 5 BC)
February 14, 1999

And how many months AFTER John (the Baptist) did Mary go to see Elizabeth (and John)?

5 Months
6 Months
12 Months
 
Was Mary Pregnant with Jesus at the time she went to visit Elizabeth and John? ____________

Correct!   Mary was pregnant when she went to see Elizabeth, who, at the time of Mary's arrival, was 6 months pregnant with John.  Therefore, this means that the time of the visit was in the month of __________________ .

Yes, June + 6 Months = December !

Hmmm.  December! And we know it was in December because Luke records that the "begetting" of the Lord Jesus was 6 months after the conception of John the Baptist (vs. 26,36).  "It is, therefore, only a matter of simple calculation to arrive at the 1st of Tebeth (Dec 25), concerning the date of Christ's conception."

Wow!  So, Jesus was not BORN on Christmas Day.... but... He was CONCEIVED on Christmas Day !  WOW !

And, according to verse 56, how long did Mary stay on her visit with Elizabeth? ________  Months.

And what happened after Mary left? (v. 57)  _________________________

Yes, Mary (and Baby Jesus in her womb) visited for 3 months and then they left and, after they left, John (the Baptist) was born.

So, since John was conceived on 23rd of Sivan (June 24, 5 BC) and was born on the 7th of Nisan (March 28, 4 BC), then Jesus was conceived on Dec. 25 of 5 BC and was born on the 15th of Tisri -- Sept 29, 4 BC.

And, what is so special about this?  Well, 2 things actually:
First, the fact that Jesus was conceived on Dec. 25 is totally awesome!  We have known for a long time that Dec. 25 was actually a pagan holiday and festival long before the time of Jesus.  Indeed it was the birthday of a false god , Horus (Osiris) of Egypt.  For that reason, many Christians today, not knowing these details, which you have just studied, were and are reluctant to "celebrate" Jesus' Birthday, knowing that it is a pagan winter solstice holiday and the day of celebration for a false god.

But, wow, now we CAN celebrate Christmas, because we now know that Dec 25 is a very special and wonderful day; it is the day that our Lord was conceived.  It is the day when the spark of His life came into the world!  We know that it is the day of His conception, and at the INSTANT of His conception, He was a living viable real being (not a glob of tissue, but a REAL person) in Mary's womb! And John, in his mother's womb, and Elizabeth both recognized and responded to Jesus' viability and presence!  WOW! Now that is worthy of celebrating!!

And, secondly, guess what!  It gets even more exciting!  For, Jesus' BIRTH, which occurred 9 months after Dec. 25 was on the 29th of September, the 15th of Tisri.

And what is so important about the 15th of Tisri??  Just this!  The 15th of Tisri was the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles !!!! And the circumcision of Jesus (on the 8th day) was on the last day of the great feast of Tabernacles! WOW! Awesome!

Now let's read in the Gospel of John, a verse which confirms, affirms, and explains the significance of this for us:

John 1:14
The Word (God Jesus) became flesh and made his dwelling (tabernacled) among us.
We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only,
Who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
WOW !!!
Jesus was  CONCEIVED on Dec. 25 of 5 BC .....
and was BORN (Tabernacled / dwelt) with us on the 29th of September (Tishri 15) 4 BC !

AWESOME !!!

And now we know What really happened on Christmas day !!!
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And now we know why we can joyously Celebrate Christmas!!!
 
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