The History of Christmas
The Traditions of Christmas
Conclusion on Christmas
The Birth of Messiah
by Scott Callas, Wildbranch Ministry
In our discussion of Christmas, the first issue we will approach is the date of Yahshua's birth. Secular history will tell us that His birth is not recorded or is unknown. Secular history will also tell us that His birth was not on December 25. As for the reason that day is used to mark Messiah's birth, we will discuss in the next section. The task before us now is to determine when Salvation entered the world. But history tells us that date is unknown! Let's see if Scripture tells a different story, and if history is His story.
We will begin our search with John the baptizer AKA. Yochanan the Immerser. Actually, we will begin with his father, Zacharias. Zacharias was a priest, described in Luke chapter one, as a member of the division of Abijah. As you will see, this turns out to be an important detail. Remember, there are no extra or unnecessary comments in the Scriptures. So, what does this division of Abijah have to do with the birth of Messiah? Much. Much indeed, because we know from scripture that Mary (Miriam, in Hebrew) conceived six months after Elizabeth, John's mother (Luke 1:36). This is one of the clues that we find in the search for the birthday of our Savior.
Abijah is one of twenty-four divisions set up under the reign of King Solomon to allow the mass numbers of priests to have an appointed time to serve in the ministry of the temple. Each division was to serve a term of one week, in their order, twice per year. The exceptions to this order were the three annual feasts in which all of the priests served, Pesach (Passover), Shavuot (Pentecost), and Sukkot (Tabernacles). These three feasts require all the men of Israel to be in Jerusalem, creating a rush on the Temple, so to speak. These three weeks did not count as a part of the two weeks per year per division.
Zacharias was serving one of his terms, when an Angel appeared to him, in the Holy Place, and foretold of the birth of a son. His name was to be Yochanan, or, as we know him, John. The discussion of the terms and their time frame becomes complicated, without a thorough understanding of the Hebrew calendars, so suffice it to say that there are two time frames that John could have been conceived, and one of those has much more evidence to support it. Those two time periods put his (John's) birth either in the season of Passover or roughly six months later, in the middle of the forty day season of Teshuvah (repentance) which precedes the fall feasts.
Evidence that supports John being born during the season of (or as I prefer, on the day of) Passover is as follows. Zacharias was in the Holy Place burning incense, which represents the prayers of YHVH's (God's) people, and offering up prayer. During this routine in the Temple, there are eighteen specific prayers uttered. One of those prayers is that Elijah will return, reflecting a prophesy in Malachi 4:5, that Elijah would precede the coming of Messiah. At that time, the angel appeared and told Zacharias his prayer had been heard (Luke 1:13). An obvious question might be, that they, Zacharias and Elizabeth were barren, wouldn't the prayer have been for them to bear a son? My answer would be that the answer to prayer is to both prayers. Elizabeth bares a son and loses the reproach among people (Luke 1:25), and John (who is born in the "spirit and power" of Elijah) is to be born preceding the Messiah.
15For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mothers womb. 16And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. 17And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
Further evidence that John was born at the time of Passover is in the Passover Seder, the order of the Passover meal. In the Seder, there is a time when a child goes and opens the door to allow Elijah to come in. Also, there is a cup placed for Elijah. It was understood in that time, that Elijah would come before the Messiah. Let's look at what Yahshua had to say about this:
10And his disciples asked him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elias [Elijah] must come? 11And Jesus answered and said unto them, "Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things. " 12"But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them. " 13Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist.
From this we can safely say that John (Yochanan) was born on Passover. Now, we come back to the birth of Yahshua. When the angel, Gabriel, visits Mary she is informed that her relative Elizabeth has conceived a son, and she is in her sixth month. This is directly after she is told that she (Mary), will bear a son.
36And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.
Now, we do some simple math. We move forward six months from Passover, the fourteenth day of Nisan (the birth of John), to find the birth of Yahshua as approximately the fourteenth day of Tishrei. Taking into consideration even more evidences about the feast of Sukkot, we will see if perhaps His birth could be on the fifteenth day of Tishrei, the beginning of Sukkot, the feast of Tabernacles.
The Hebrew Religious Calendar
1. Nisan 7. Tishrei 2. Iyar 8. Cheshvan 3. Sivan 9. Kislev 4. Tammuz 10. Tevet 5. Av 11. Shevet 6. Elul 12. Adar
As we saw earlier in this article, the men of Israel are required to travel to Jerusalem to celebrate the three major feasts, Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot (Dt. 16:16). At these times, the city is over run, as are the surrounding cities and towns. Bethlehem is only about four miles from Jerusalem. If Yahshua's birth occurred during the feast of Tabernacles, we can see a reason for the inns to be full (Luke 2:7).
In Luke 2:7, we see that the baby was laid in a manger. The word used for 'manger' is the Greek word 'phatne'. This word is later used in Luke 13:15 as 'stall,' as in a place to hitch animals. In Genesis we see Jacob making booths (stalls) for his cattle. The same principle, but a different word is used here, 'sukkah,' the singular for 'sukkot' which means stalls, booths, or tabernacles. During the feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot), each family builds and resides in a Sukkah, or booth. These little huts are in remembrance of the deliverance from Egypt, when the Children of Israel lived in temporary shelters on their way to the Promised Land. Now, we take the idea of a Sukkah being a stall or booth to hitch cattle, and again look into the passage in Luke, we can see that Yahshua most probably was laid in a 'sukkah' or tabernacle.
The feast of Sukkot is called by other names. Here are a few of those names: "The Season of Our Joy," "The Feast of the Nations," "The Festival of Lights." Let's look into the account in Luke, to see if any of those names ring out.
10And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
I think it is apparent that good tidings of great joy would fall within a "season of our joy." What about the 'feast of Nations?" The good tidings are to "all people." I believe that covers the 'Nations.'
What about the "Festival of Lights?" In numerous places, the Word of God is compared to light.
Psalm 119:105, 130
105Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. 130The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.
23For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life.
4Hearken unto me, my people; and give ear unto me, O my nation: for a law shall proceed from me, and I will make my judgment to rest for a light of the people.
Yahshua Himself is called the 'Word,' in John chapter one. In several other places, Yahshua calls Himself, or is called by others, a 'Light.'
32A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.
4In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
12Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, "I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life."
46"I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness."
We can gather by the terms 'Word' and 'Light' and how they are used throughout Scripture, that they can all be synonymous with Yahshua. With this in mind, His birth could very safely be reckoned during a "Festival of Lights."
What else can we see about Tabernacles? I think one of the most profound evidences of Messiah's birth during Tabernacles is in John chapter one.
14And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
The word in the Greek for 'dwell' is skenoo. This word means to dwell, to tent or encamp. Skenoo comes from the word 'skenos' which means a hut or temporary shelter, or tabernacle. To paraphrase John, the Word (Yahshua) was made flesh, and tabernacled among us. All this can be checked out simply in a Strong's Concordance.The same word, 'skenoo,' is used in Revelation, again as 'dwell.'
3And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.
This verse speaks of the tabernacle of God, and says "and He will dwell with them." It seems to me that this tabernacle is God Himself, Yahshua, tabernacle-ing with us.
I would like to make one last note, on the circumcision of Yahshua.
21And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS [Yahshua], which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
At the end of the feast of Sukkot, on the eighth day, there is a special day called Shemini Atzeret; the eighth day of assembly. This day is also called Simchat Torah; joy in Torah. The number eight as compared to the cycle of a week is the beginning of a new week. It speaks of renewing, or rebirth. Simchat Torah, or rejoicing in Torah, is a celebration of the Word of God. It is this day that begins the weekly Torah readings, as can be found on this website. This is the beginning of the annual cycle that takes the reader all the way through Torah. Let us not forget, Torah means 'teaching or instruction.' The teachings of YHVH are for life, the life He wishes us to live. Now, how does this tie in with the circumcision of the Messiah?
It is, in my view of things, very safe to say Yahshua was born on the first day of Sukkot. With this in mind, we see His circumcision being on the eighth day, Simchat Torah. How fitting that the King of Kings enters into covenant with YHVH on a day marked as a day to rejoice in YHVH's instructions.
Circumcision of the flesh is simply obedience to God's Word. Circumcision of the heart, though, is a different matter (Romans 2:28-29). Circumcision of the heart is an inward thing that man does not do; God must do that. This is what Messiah came to accomplish, is the inward change in man. A rebirth. The eighth day is a day of renewing, and the day YHVH prescribed that circumcision to be performed. Renewing, whether it is of the flesh or of the heart is the theme of the eighth day.
I find it interesting that modern medical science has discovered that the human body does not produce pain endorphins until the eighth day after birth. The day YHVH says to circumcise a male child happens to be the day when the body is given the tools to deal with pain. Hmmm. I think He must know what He's doing.
As always, this article is written with the intention of shedding light on a topic. This article is not intended to be a full dissertation on the birth of our Messiah, but only an introduction to the Scriptural story of His birth. For further reading, I would suggest Edward Chumney's book, The Seven Festivals of the Messiah. In this book, he covers more about the feast of Tabernacles, and the other feasts as listed in Leviticus chapter 23, all of which point to Yahshua and His ministry throughout time.
I hope that this article has enlightened you as to a more accurate date when our Messiah was born. It is with this understanding that we will move on to the next portion of our study of the Christmas festival, The History of Christmas.
The next section: The History of Christmas