By Mike Hughes
The Christmas season has become so much a part of our national life that is it practically impossible to isolate oneself from it. Manger scenes, the “Christmas Story” in schools, and appeals to put Christ back into Christmas have the effect of presenting as truth what are really fictional parts of the “Christmas Story.” These fictional parts have no foundation in fact, as presented in either the Scriptures or in historical record otherwise. We must be willing to investigate biblical teaching concerning the Birth of Christ to separate fact from fiction, so we might believe whatever truth is presented and practice whatever is authorized. We also should want to avoid believing that which isn’t justified in the scriptural account.
I. The Facts about the Birth of Christ.
A. It is a fact that a baby boy named Jesus was born in Bethlehem more than 1900 years ago and that he became one of the most influential men of history.
1 . Biblical and extra-biblical sources prove his birth.
2. Josephus the Jew, Tacitus, Suetonius, and Pliny the Younger support the fact that he lived and was believed and followed as the N.T. teaches.
B. It is a fact that he was born in a stable.
1. Read Luke 2:7. The innkeeper was the first in a long line of people who turned away the Son of God. He still finds no room in the lives of many.
2. Archaeological discoveries have confirmed the general accuracy of Luke’s account of the circumstances.
a. It was denied by many that there was imperial census, that Cyrenius was governor (Lk. 2:2) or that all had to go to their ancestral home.
b. Archaeological finds have shown all three to be true – papyrus documents indicate a census every 14 years, that Cyrenius was governor on two occasions that would allow him to have been governor at the date of Jesus’ birth, and that Roman-ruled countries were required to return to ancestral homes for taxation.
C. It is a fact that angels announced his birth to shepherds (Lk. 2:8-14).
D. It is a fact that wise men from the East came to worship Jesus.
1. These were magi (magoi), possibly priests or philosophers from the Euphrates Valley with the learning of the East, guided by the Lord by means of “his Star” (Matt. 2).
2. They came asking the location of the new-born King!
E. It is a fact that Jesus was born of a virgin.
1. Read Matt. 1:22,23.
2. Notice the evidence for the virgin birth.
a. Mary (Lk. 1:34,35): She immediately went to see Zachariah and Elizabeth, although Zachariah would have condemned her for adultery. At the cross she remained silent when her admission of adultery would have saved Jesus from death. What kind of mother was this?
b. Joseph: Why would Joseph invent such a story?
c. Elizabeth, Matthew, Luke, John the Baptist, Peter, Paul, and others preached he was not the son of a mere man.
3. Acceptance of this evidence prepares one to accept all else the Bible says of him, but repudiation undermines the trustworthiness of the whole Bible.
F. It is a fact that Jesus came on a mission of salvation (Matt. 1:21; Lk. 2:29-32).
II. Fiction Surrounding Jesus’s Birth.
A. It is fiction that there were three wise men.
1. The three gifts could have been brought by a smaller or larger group of wise men.
2. The Bible doesn’t say how many came.
B. It is fiction that the wise men visited the stable.
1. In spite of the manger scene depicting wise men there, Matthew 2:11 says they visited Jesus in a house.
2. The flight to Egypt after their visit, as well as the public presentation in the Temple at age of 40 days, would indicate the wise men came after 40 days (cf. Lev. 12:1-4).
C. The principle fiction is that he was born on December 25.
1. The Bible does not date his birth, and learned men have put the date in various months of the year.
2. Articles in any encyclopedia will show lack of evidence to support December 25th as being Jesus’ birthday!
3. The rainy season of Palestine makes it very unlikely that shepherds kept flocks out in the fields.
D. It is fiction that Christ wants us to observe a special day in honor of his birth.
1. Too many of us are inclined toward special observances rather than regular observances. We render service in spurts.
2. Christians remember his death on the only special day found in the N.T. teaching – the first day of every week, even as the early church did Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2).
3. Since we walk by faith, which is based on the Word of God, we cannot make a special religious observance of any day in the absence of any justification from the Scriptures.
Notice the facts and fiction stated above. As a national holiday, December 25 may be observed by Christians as any other such holiday; but we should not attach any religious significance to Christmas. All Christians should give thanks daily for his birth and his willingness to sacrifice his life on the cross so we, through obedience to his will, will have hope of eternal life with him in Heaven (Jn. 14:1-4).
Guardian of Truth XXXIII: 24, pp. 744, 751
December 21, 1989