IN a few days, we shall be celebrating the birth of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Invariably, Christmas is the most celebrated holiday in the world today. In fact, some people begin to plan for it as soon as they get into a new year. In some countries, like the USA, billions of dollars are spent yearly on Christmas gifts. There is expectation of high income, execution of new projects, numerous social events and reunion of relations and friends. On the negative side, there is increase in crime and social disorder such as robbery, kidnapping, accidents and others. But how many of us actually know what Christmas is all about? How many understand the significance, timing and the plan of God for this glorious divine purpose? Was Jesus really born on December 25? Why do we celebrate His birth in December? The tradition is ancient. Hippolytus, in the second century A.D. argued that this was Christ’s birthday. Meanwhile, in the Eastern Church, January 6 was observed. In the fourth century, John Chrysostom argued that December 25 was the correct date. And from that time till now, the Church in the East and in the West have observed December 25 as the official date of Christ’s birth.
In modern times, the traditional date has been challenged. Modern scholars say that when Jesus was born, shepherds watched their sheep on the hills around Bethlehem. Luke says that an angel appeared to “some shepherds staying out in the fields keeping watch over their flock by night” (Luke 2:8).
Some scholars feel that the sheep were usually brought under cover from November to March and were not normally in the fields at night. But there is no hard evidence for this. In fact, early Jewish sources suggest that the sheep around Bethlehem were outside year-round. So, December 25 fits both traditional and Biblical narrative well. There is no sound objection to it.
Admittedly, the sheep around Bethlehem were the exception, not the rule. But these were no ordinary sheep; they were sacrificial lambs. In the early spring, they would be slaughtered at the Passover. God first revealed the Messiah’s birth to these shepherds –people who protected harmless lambs that would soon die on behalf of sinful men.
Of course, we can’t be absolutely certain of the date of Christ’s birth. But an early winter date seems reasonable. And December 25 has been the frontrunner for 18 centuries. We can blame the ancient Church for a large part of our uncertainty. They did not celebrate Christ’s birth at all. They considered it insignificant. They were far more concerned about His death and resurrection. And some still hold the same view today. But I believe both are important. For without the birth, there wouldn’t have been the death.
Since creation, God was orchestrating world affairs to set the stage for the arrival of His Son. In the meantime, He used prophecy to keep alive people’s hope for a fresh beginning and a new relationship with Him. So, many Messianic predictions are recorded in the Old Testament. Jesus Christ’s birth, life, and death happened exactly as the prophets foretold. Isaiah proclaimed: “Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name -God with us” (Isaiah 7:14).
Micah told the Jewish people that their leader would come from the tiny town of Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). The timing of Messiah’s arrival was revealed to Daniel, who recorded the timeline in his writings. (The word ‘week’ in Daniel 9:25-26 actually means ‘seven years’ just as in Genesis 29:27).
God Himself gave a direct prophecy in Genesis 3:15, when He told Satan “from now on, you and the woman will be enemies, and your offspring and her offspring will be enemies.
He will crush your head.” It was an indication that Christ would defeat him. A careful comparison of Jesus’ life with the prophecies of scripture leads to only one conclusion: Jesus is the promised Messiah, who brings every willing person into a new covenant relationship with the Father.
The hope of a coming Messiah sustained the Israelites through centuries of chaos and captivity. That Messianic hope is still available in our day through the one who came, died, and rose again to save us. Those of us who have received Jesus Christ, as Saviour, have an unbreakable covenant relationship with God and the promise of eternity with Him. Have you received Him as your Lord and Saviour? God bless you!
We commiserate with the families of Sir Patrick Yakowa, General Andrew Azazi and others who died at that helicopter crash in Bayelsa. We have lost great patriots, men of truth and peace. May God give us all the fortitude to bear this great loss.
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