Luke 2:7 | Matthew 1:18
Wait…you mean to tell me Jesus wasn’t born on December 25th?!
Nobody is really sure on what date Jesus was born. The Bible does not state it specifically, and scholars have different approaches to estimating the date. This is probably not earth-shattering news, though… Certainly, at some point you have asked yourself the question, “How do we know Jesus’ birthday?”
And doesn’t it make sense that Joseph and Mary traveled all the way from Nazareth to Joseph’s family’s home town of Bethlehem–a trip of almost 100 miles/160 kilometers which would have taken four days or more–not to stay in some strange inn, but more likely with his relatives?
And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.(Luke 2:7 King James Version – KJV)
The original King James Version translates the Greek word kataluma as an ‘inn,’ which in newer translations is often written as ‘guest room,’ or as it is here:
She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.(Luke 2:7 New Living Translation – NLT)
It definitely stands to reason that the Magi (or wise men) visited Jesus around two years after his birth, in light of the fact that King Herod had all male babies killed who were two years old or younger. Why would he pick such an age range if not because he thought that was when the King of Kings would have been born?
All these Christmas misses might have you asking, “What parts of the Christmas story are true?” Good question.
Here’s the answer: The parts in the Bible.
Have you read the Christmas story in the Bible? It is found in the gospels of Matthew and Luke:
- Matthew 1:18-2:18
- Luke 1:26-2:20
You might be surprised to see what is and is not included in the Biblical account of Jesus’ miraculous birth. For example, the birth of John the Baptist is included in Luke’s account. As a counterpoint, there are no drummer boys, elves, snowmen (or even snow!), or jolly bearded flying sleighmen.
If you find yourself getting discouraged by all these Christmas misses, don’t stay that way. Instead, read God’s Word.
And don’t worry about the small things–whether it was a hotel or a relative’s guest room that was not available, whether camels were present at Jesus’ delivery, etc. Focus instead on the important facts laid out in scripture: Jesus is God’s promised Messiah, born to a virgin in Bethlehem, conceived by the Holy Spirit, the fulfillment of scores of prophecy.
This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit.(Matthew 1:18 NLT)
You will be reminded that the real story of Christmas is not about cute donkeys, catchy songs, or cold weather; that it needs no embellishment or plot twists to add interest; and that it deals with no less a subject than God keeping his promises by doing exactly what he said would in the most unexpected way.
We’re praying that reading these scriptures will set you up for a season of Christmas hits to last all year.
Questions for Group Discussion
- How familiar are you with the Biblical account of Jesus’ birth? Have you read it yourself? Had it read to you? Just heard talk about it?
- Do you know of any other Christmas misses not mentioned in this video or the accompanying text? If so, can you provide the scripture that demonstrates your point?
- Does the lack of clarity on certain points of the Christmas story trouble you? How does it make you feel that some of the details are somewhat blurry?
- What would you say are the most important details of Jesus’ birth story? Why?
- If you could learn more about any one detail in the Christmas story, what would it be? Why that one? If you can’t narrow it down to just one, give us your top three.
Challenge: The Real Story
Usually we don’t ask you to read long passages of scripture because the request can be daunting. But seriously, you probably have some time off for Christmas, so here it is…
- Read the Biblical Christmas story in the scriptures below:
- Matthew 1:18-2:18
- Luke 1:26-2:20
- Write down any discoveries you make, such as
- Things you thought were one way, but are different
- Things you expected to find, but did not
- Things you have never noticed before
- Write down any questions you have about the story or its significance
- Ask your pastor or other trusted church leader the questions you wrote