For many hundreds of years, December 25th has been the day we celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. The odd part is, there is nothing in the Bible that supports December 25th as the birth date of Jesus. The Bible is pretty vague about when Jesus was actually born but it is highly unlikely that it was the end of December.
One clue as to why late December is not likely, comes from the book of Luke, chapter 2 verses 8-12; “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
In Israel, the weather in December is cold and rainy. It is the rainy season and shepherds would not be out in the fields at night with their sheep. They would most likely be in shelters and not in open air.
Another reason that late December is unlikely the time Joseph and Mary were traveling to Bethlehem is due to the weather. People did not normally travel at this time of year, especially a young woman about to give birth. They would normally travel in the dryer seasons which would be spring through fall.
So when is the more likely time that Jesus was born? The Bible gives us some indirect information that can lead us to when Jesus was born. It starts with John the Baptist. We have more information about John’s birth and more importantly, the time between John the Baptist’s birth and Jesus’ birth.
In Luke, Chapter 1, when Zechariah was performing his duties as a priest from the division of Abijah, he was told by the angel Gabriel that he and Elizabeth were going to have a baby boy and they were to name him John. In those days, there were annual calendars set up as to when the different divisions of priests would serve in the temple. This schedule repeated itself year after year following the Jewish calendar. From this we can find when Zechariah was to serve in the temple. Most likely Zechariah served in the temple between June 13 and June 19. After performing his duties, Zechariah went home to Elizabeth and she became pregnant. If this is the case, John was born some time around the middle to end of March.
Another clue is when the Angel visited Mary and told her she was going to conceive by the Holy Spirit, have a son and to name him Jesus. Before leaving, the Angel told Mary about her cousin Elizabeth and that she was already in her 6th month.
Most likely Mary was pregnant before she went to visit Elizabeth which was soon after the angel left. Mary visited Elizabeth for 3 months and then returned home. Elizabeth had her baby John soon after. So that makes John about 6 months older than Jesus. So if John was born in middle to late March, adding 6 months to that suggests that Jesus may have been born in middle to late September.
This time of year more fits in with the shepherds out in the fields at night with their flock and Mary and Joseph traveling to Bethlehem for the census. Keep in mind that this is taking into consideration as to when both Elizabeth and Mary became pregnant which may be later than described. We will never really know the true date but does it really matter? What we really need to keep in our hearts is that God sent his Son to save all of mankind from their sins. That’s what we really need to know about the birth of Jesus, whether of not it was December 25th or some other date. If God thought that the date of his Son’s birth was important, he would have revealed it to us in his word. Merry Christmas!