Published 10:06 am Friday, December 23, 2022
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Lorie Ann Simpson
I love the early mornings. Usually, my husband and I get up at the same time, and we have precious moments together as we drink our coffee. This morning, however, he is sleeping in, and it is just me and my dog, Daisy. No lights are on in the house, just the glow of the Christmas tree lights. It is so quiet and peaceful. It is an excellent time to write.
Christmas is slowly winding down and will end in a few short hours. So many emotions are whirling around in my heart this morning. Excitement, for sure, is number one. I can’t wait for my guys to open their presents. And if I am honest, I can’t wait to open mine. But also, my heart is heavy for my loved ones that are no longer here. Especially my parents. I miss them so much but more so during this time of year.
Without my parents here, I feel it is my place to ensure everyone has the best Christmas ever. It is not about presents, it is about being together. Special moments. Love and laughter. Making memories that the kids will hold onto after I am gone. My husband recently told me that I am the glue that holds the family together. What an amazing compliment. I just hope I am making memories as wonderful as my parents did.
When was Jesus really born?
By Tim Simpson
I believe it is widely common knowledge that Jesus was not actually born on Dec. 25, though it is a time that we set aside to celebrate the birth of our savior. But, when was he really born?
The New Testament gospels of Matthew and Luke do not mention a date or time of year for the birth of Jesus. However, Luke and Matthew associate Jesus’ birth with the time of Herod the Great. Matthew 2:1 states, “Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod, the king.” He also implies that Jesus could have been as much as two years old at the time of the visit of the Magi because Herod ordered the murder of all boys up to the age of two years, “following the time he had learned from the Magi.” Matthew 2:16 In addition, if the phrase “about 30” in Luke 3:23 is interpreted to mean 32 years old, this could fit a date of birth just within the reign of Herod, who died in 4 BC.
Another way to estimate the year of Jesus’ birth is to work backward from the point when Jesus began preaching, using the statement in Luke 3:23 that he was “about 30 years of age” at that time. Jesus began to preach after being baptized by John the Baptist, and based on Luke’s gospel, John only began baptizing people in “the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar” (Luke 3:1–2), which scholars estimate would place the year at about AD 28-29. By working backward from this, it would appear that Jesus was probably born no later than 1 BC. Another theory is that Herod’s death was as late as after the January eclipse of 1 BC or even AD 1 after the eclipse that occurred in December 1 BC.
This date is confirmed by John’s reference in John 2:20 to the Temple being in its 46th year of construction when Jesus began his ministry during Passover, which corresponds to around 27-29 AD according to scholarly estimates.
What about the month? Alexander Murray of History Today argues that the celebration of Christmas as the birthday of Jesus is based on a date of a pagan feast rather than historical analysis. Saturnalia, the Roman feast for Saturn, was associated with the winter solstice. But Saturnalia was held on December 17 of the Julian calendar and later expanded with festivities only up through December 23. The holiday was celebrated with a sacrifice at the Temple of Saturn and in the Roman Forum, as well as a public banquet, followed by private gift-giving, continual partying, and a carnival atmosphere that overturned Roman social norms. The Roman festival of Natalis Solis Invicti has also been suggested since it was celebrated on December 25 and was associated with some prominent emperors. Such a Christian feast was likely chosen for Christ’s marked contrast and triumph over paganism; new converts who attempted to introduce pagan elements into the Christian celebrations were sharply rebuked.
Alternatively, December 25 may have been selected owing to its proximity to the winter solstice because of its symbolic theological significance. After the solstice, the days begin to lengthen with longer hours of sunlight, which Christians see as representing the Light of Christ entering the world. This symbolism applies equally to the celebration of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist on June 24, near the summer solstice, based on John’s remark about Jesus, “He must increase; I must decrease.” John 3:30 NRSV.
Realistically, shepherds would not have been tending their flocks in December when the weather was cold; they would have continued shepherding no later than October.
Bible scholars also try to time Christ’s birth by timing the birth of his cousin John according to the sparse information about Zechariah, Elizabeth, and Mary outlined in Luke. Elizabeth was six months pregnant when Mary arrived, and Mary left three months later. According to BibleInfo.com: “We can approximate the month of Jesus’ birth to be around the time of Tishri (mid to late September). To arrive at this date, start at the conception of John the Baptist, Sivan (June), count forward six months to arrive at Gabriel’s announcement of the conception of Jesus, Kislev (December), then count forward nine more months, the time it takes for human gestation, to reach Tishri (September) when Jesus was born.”
Whatever the month and date, it doesn’t matter. What matters is why we celebrate it at all. With that said, my family and I wish each of you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!