This week, Christians will celebrate the birth of Christ. We will gather with loved ones to worship, sing, eat too much, and reflect on what His birth has given us. And then, the one know-it-all on Twitter, in your family, or wherever else he lurks, will tell you in his most self-satisfied tone, that Jesus wasn’t even born in December. That, using Biblical clues, it was likely another time of year entirely. That early Christians said it was in December to align with pagan festivals. Yes, know-it-all, we have heard it before.
To this know-it-all, I say: Who Cares?
Theories abound that he was born at just about any time of year except the winter, but Christmas isn’t about a date on the calendar. It’s entirely possible that the early church chose a date in late December to bring some familiarity to pagans. The date of Christ’s birth was unrecorded, so why not choose a date that would bring more people to Christ? Christians have been celebrating Christmas on December 25 since the second century, likely because it aligned with an important day for Pagans: dies nautilus solis invite (birth of the invincible sun god). Celebrating Christ’s birth is what matters and, if it brought people to Christ to celebrate it at the same time as the invincible sun god, that’s ok. As one fourth century-theologian said “We hold this day holy, not like pagans because of the birth of the sun, but because of Him who made it.”
By the fourth century, this date was recorded in the Roman calendar as the date of nativity celebrations and, by 1038, we had a Mass of Christ- Christmas. Certainly, in a Mass for Christ, pagan beliefs had been separated. So why, a millennia later, is this still touted as a piece of “gotcha” trivia?
There is, however, also Biblical evidence that Jesus was born on December 25th. It can be calculated from the time when Elisabeth became pregnant with John the Baptist. We know that the annunciation happened in Elisabeth’s sixth month of pregnancy, which would put the due date of the baby Jesus right around December 25. We also know shepherds were with their flocks at night when Jesus was born, and that sheep mate in the spring and give birth in December. The lamb of God may easily have arrived at the same time as these other lambs. We don’t know for certain, but there is enough evidence to seriously consider that the date of December is correct. If it matters.
However, in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t. So let the know-it-all say what they will, and enjoy Christmas. Celebrate His birth which saved us.
Here’s the thing about Christmas: It doesn’t matter when Jesus was born. It matter that Jesus was born. For that, we celebrate.