Many say that Christmas was created to provide a Christian alternative for a pagan holiday, but is that the whole story? Maybe. Maybe not. Let’s investigate.
Frederick Larsen1 has given a lot of evidence on specific dates for the events of Jesus’ early life. I won’t go into all that he has done. It’s fascinating, so I hope you check it out in more detail.
Based upon several Biblical passages, (Gn 49:9; Rv 12:1-5) and the conjunction of specific planets or stars (Jupiter, Regulus, and Venus), it is likely that Jesus’ conception was in September of 3 BC. This puts the event around Rosh Hashanah of that year. Very apropos, don’t you think? This holiday is also called Feast of Trumpets in Scripture (Lv 23:24-15) and was a memorial feast of the blowing of trumpets to ask God to remember His covenant with Israel.2 The conception of the Messiah would indeed represent God remembering his people after the 400 years of prophetic silence.
If this is true, it would put his birth nine months later in June of 2 BC. This also coincides with a triple conjunction of Jupiter with Regulus, and Jupiter then continuing its journey for a rendezvous with Venus, noted as the Mother planet. With the naked eye, these stars would appear as one star – one very bright star. In addition, this would put Christ’s birth near the Jewish holiday of Shavuot (or Pentecost). This holiday has marked many paradigm shifts in scripture:2 e.g. giving of the Law, and the beginning of the church. And now, we see this fits with his birth as it was certainly a paradigm shift for Israel. We don’t have time to get into all of that here, but look at his teachings and the Jewish leaders’ response as well as his initial gospel to Israel.
Now, if we follow Larsen’s logic of when the star was over Bethlehem and appeared to “stay” (i.e., as Jupiter entered retrograde motion), it would put their visit at Bethlehem on December 25, 2 BC. Isn’t that interesting? The first gifts were given when we actually give gifts to each other. Somewhat serendipitous? Maybe.
This also helps us understand why Herod killed everyone in Bethlehem two years old and younger. While the above information would show that Jesus was only six months old at this time, we need to realize the signs in the stars occurred nine months earlier which would make the total time to be slightly under two years. Herod, and the wise men, may have been unsure if the initial signs were of conception or of birth. Herod was making sure of either in case it was the later.
I find it interesting and awesome that all that happened in the birth of Christ match the meaning of the different Jewish festivals upon which they occurred around, and although December was chosen to celebrate his birth as an alternative to a pagan holiday, it still has a Biblical significance showing us when those first gifts were actually given. Sometime serendipity isn’t serendipity at all.
Have a joyous New Year.
1Frederick A. Larsen, “The Star of Bethlehem.” Sound Enterprises, Inc., http://www.bethlehemstar.net/
2Robert R. Congdon, An Appointment with God: The Feasts of the Lord (Bloomington, IN: CrossBooks, 2009).
Twelfth Day of Christmas: Epiphany
When is Christmas?