Summary: This is an informal Wednesday Night Bible Study, examining why we celebrate Christmas on December 25th, what year Jesus was really born, what the Inn was like, and who the Wise Men were.
“Examining Christmas Traditions”
(A Wednesday Night Bible Study)
INTRODUCTION: TONIGHT, I want us to informally take a closer look at just a few of the Christmas traditions.
I. WHEN WAS JESUS BORN?
A. The Year
Throughout history, calendars have been dated according to important historical events. Our calendar is dated in relation to the birth of Jesus. “B.C.” = ‘Before Christ’. “A.D.” = “Anno Domini’ = ‘in the year of our Lord’.
How did they come up with this date? Is this 2003 years after the birth of Jesus?
In 46 BC, Julius Caesar came up with the “Julian Calendar”, with 12 months and 365 days. It was based on the founding of the city of Rome.
In 1582 AD, it was revised by Pope Gregory, because it had fallen behind by 10 days. He declared October 5th to be October 15th and arranged for Leap Years. He based the new calendar on the date of the birth of Christ.
Our current calendar is called the “Gregorian Calendar”. It’s pretty accurate, but it’s off by 26 seconds each year. HOWEVER, it will take 3,323 years to build up a single day. SO … in the year 3,905 A.D., an extra day will have to be added to the calendar!
Our calendar is based on the birth of Jesus. HOWEVER, if you look in your Bible, the birth of Jesus is dated at 4 or 5 B.C. Pope Gregory was in error by 4-5 years.
How do we know this? We look to history. Jesus was born when Herod was King. He reigned for 37 years. Josephus (a Jewish historian) says that there was a lunar eclipse shortly before Herod’s death. History tells us that Herod died 7 days before the eclipse. The eclipse is dated in March of 4 B.C.
Mary & Joseph’s flight into Egypt occurred BEFORE the death of Herod. The Bible tells us that Herod died while they were in Egypt – Matthew 2:14-15, 19-20. Mary had to wait 40 days after the birth of Jesus before she could present Jesus before the Lord – Luke 2:22, Leviticus 12:2-8. SO, they couldn’t have traveled to Egypt until after 40 days after the birth of Jesus.
Luke 2:2 – all turn
“first” - Quirinius was Governor of Syria TWICE. The FIRST time was around 4 B.C. This puts the birth of Jesus around that time … 4-5 B.C.
B. The Date
We celebrate Christmas on December 25th. WHY?
In 180 A.D., Clement of Alexandria wrote that the birth of Jesus was thought to be on April 21 … or April 22 … or May 20 … depending on who you asked. Most believed that it was around the Passover time. This is when the shepherds would be out in their fields … not in the winter (December).
The Eastern Orthodox Church celebrated Christmas on January 6th for centuries. Since the FIRST Adam was “born” on the 6th day of creation … and Jesus is the SECOND Adam … they celebrated the birth of Jesus on January 6th. The Armenian Church still celebrates Christmas on January 6th..
WHY DECEMBER 25th?
In the 4th Century, the Western Church set the date as December 25th. There was a pagan holiday on that date, and so to diminish and obscure the importance of the pagan holiday, they decided to celebrate the birth of Jesus on that date.
NOTE: If God would have wanted us to know the exact date … if it was that important … He would have told us. The IMPORTANT thing is … to celebrate the birth of Jesus … no matter what date you choose.
II. WHAT ABOUT THE INN?
A. WHAT WAS AN INN?
See Luke 2:7
The Inn in those days was called a “Caravansary”. There were various types of Caravansaries. Some were a camp of tents. Some were stone buildings, built like a fort. They provided unfurnished, bare rooms. The guests were expected to provide their own bedding, cooking utensils, food, etc. There were stables for the animals.
People usually stayed in homes, which were opened up to travelers, friends, and guests. During the time of the taxation, it was crowded around Bethlehem, and many homes were filled and there was no room. Mary & Joseph were in a desperate situation, with Mary about to give birth.
The Caravansaries were usually a rough place … like a truck stop. It was the least desirable place to stay. Sometimes they were frequented by prostitutes … little privacy. It wasn’t the best place to have a baby … with people gawking and curiously looking in during this special time. I’m glad it was full!
B. WHAT ABOUT THE INN-KEEPER?
Our Christmas plays always picture an evil Inn-keeper … BUT … there is no mention on one here. It is just assumed. Sometimes there was an Inn-keeper, and sometimes there wasn’t – see Luke 10:33-35.