A lot of information is kept from us out here in the cheap seats.
More is known about Jesus in the historical record than has been made known to the public. God permits this hiding of historical fact because our faith needs to be based on Truth, not fact. So what we know about Jesus comes from God through scripture or through private revelation, and that’s more than enough.
This is what we do know about Jesus’ birth: It likely didn’t happen on December 25 in Year Zero, but we use December 25 each year as a commemoration date. That’s fair enough (and yes, I know about Saturnalia, but if Jesus is lord over the Sabbath, then he is easily lord over Saturnalia). I think God doesn’t want us to know Jesus’ exact date of birth because he doesn’t want us to make an idol of it.
We have a tendency to do that.
I say this from personal experience.
I have a good memory. I remember nearly every day of my life, or at least those days that have made lasting imprints. I can tell you the day of the week or the exact date when this or that happened 20, 30, 40 years ago, and sometimes even the time of day. But what I can’t do is tell you the date of the best day of my life – the day I was born again. I know the day of the week, but not the date. I know the time, but not the date. I know the exact location, but not the date. I asked God once why that was, why I don’t know the date of my rebirth, and God told me it was because he didn’t want me to make an idol of it. In any case, my rebirth, being a spiritual event, happened outside of time, and so is dateless by definition.
But back to Jesus. Here we are in the midst our annual celebration of his birth or commemoration of his birth. We light things, we decorate things, we sing things, we give things, we eat things, all special things that are special to this time of year. And at the center of this specialness is Jesus, or better said the newborn baby Jesus: the promise of God.
God keeps his word. His promises are his word. In the birth of Jesus, God kept his word that he would send a “suffering servant” as a sacrifice to redeem us, to bring us back into right relationship with him, to stand in the gap between us and him and establish a kingdom that would last forever. All through scripture, God makes promises which he then keeps. The birth of Jesus was the big one. In giving us Jesus, God kept his word, as he always does: He never fails. The geographical kingdom of the Promised Land was the forerunner of the spiritual kingdom of the Promised Land.
With the birth of Jesus, which we commemorate on December 25, God kept his promise to redeem us. In so doing, he birthed the spiritual kingdom of the Promised Land. But unlike the geographical realm, the spiritual kingdom has no end and Jesus will reign over it forever. We who are born-again are living in that Promised Land now. We are living the keeping of God’s Old Testament promise. We are the inheritors.
Of all the days in creation, the day of Jesus’ birth was by far the greatest. The day of Jesus’ resurrection was also important, but at Jesus’ birth, the resurrection had already taken place. Everything Jesus ever did on Earth had already taken place at his birth, not in time, but in the same “outside of time” zone I was born again. The angels would not have been singing Jesus’ praises to the shepherds had they not already known what Jesus would accomplish. The magi would not have journeyed all the way from wherever they came from, following the star that heralded the birth of the Messiah, had they not been absolutely sure that they would find the King of the Jews. They did not balk when they saw the lowliness of his surroundings; they approached him on their knees, bowing in reverence, and proffering their gold and incense and myrrh, in fulfillment of scripture. Like the angels, they knew who the little boy was.
When we commemorate the birth of Jesus every year, we are celebrating not just the birth of a child but the birth of the spiritual Promised Land that has no end. We are celebrating God keeping the promise he made to Abraham and to Isaac and to Jacob and to Moses and to all of his people all through the ages, including us. We are celebrating God giving us his word and keeping his word in Jesus.
How you choose to celebrate the greatest event on the greatest day that ever was is between you and God, but celebrate it you must.
Don’t you ever let anyone stop you.