Rev. Margaret Minnicks is an ordained Bible teacher. She writes many articles that are Bible lessons.
It is amazing that some people still have questions about the birth of Jesus even though they celebrate Christmas every year. The word "Christmas" is a short form of "Christ's mass."
Christians honor Jesus' birth, but some do not know all that the Bible says about their Savior. Non-Christians celebrate the day in a cultural fashion instead of in a spiritual way.
Here are some common questions and answers surrounding Jesus' birth.
Why Was Jesus Born?
God had promised the Jews through the prophets that the long-awaited Messiah would come. They looked forward to the Messiah coming to redeem Israel and to provide comfort for them from their oppressors. God sent Jesus to bring about a spiritual redemption to save people from their sins.
The angel Gabriel told Mary the reason for Jesus' birth that was established at the time of His conception.
"She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21).
When Was Jesus Born?
No one can pinpoint the exact date of Jesus' birth. Since the Bible gives no specific date, there has been a debate about the date over the years. There are theories why Jesus' birth is celebrated on December 25th every year.
It has been concluded that the celebration comes on December 25th every year because in the fourth century, Pope Julius 1 chose to correspond it to the date of the winter solstice. Christmas Day wasn’t accepted as a federal holiday in the United States until 1870. That date has been celebrated every year since then no matter what day of the week the date falls on.
Where Was Jesus Born?
The Bible tells us that Jesus was born in the city of Bethlehem, which was about 70-80 miles from Nazareth where Mary lived.
Mary and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem to be counted in a Roman census and to pay taxes based on a decree issued by Caesar Augustus. That explains how Mary and Joseph ended up in Bethlehem at the time Mary gave birth.
Old Testament prophets foretold the birth of Jesus hundreds of years before He was born. In other words, Jesus didn't just show up. It is safe to say it was because of God's planned parenthood. The major prophet Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah would come to earth 700 years before He was born.
“But the Lord will still give you proof. A virgin is pregnant; she will have a son and will name him Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).
“A child is born to us! A son is given to us! And he will be our ruler. He will be called ‘Wonderful Counselor,’ ‘Mighty God,’ ‘Eternal Father,’ ‘Prince of Peace’” (Isaiah 9:6).
The minor prophet Micah predicted the birthplace of Jesus.
“The Lord says, ‘Bethlehem Ephrathah, you are one of the smallest towns in Judah, but out of you I will bring a ruler for Israel, whose family line goes back to ancient times’”(Micah 5:2).
Micah's prophecy explains why we sing, "O Little Town of Bethlehem."
O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight
For Christ is born of Mary
And gathered all above
While mortals sleep, the angels keep
Their watch of wondering love
O morning stars together
Proclaim the holy birth
And praises sing to God the King
And Peace to men on earth.
What Did the Bible Say About Jesus' Birth?
The Gospels of Matthew and Luke are the only two of the four gospels that record information about the birth of Jesus. Each writer tells the story from his own perspective. However, their stories do not contradict each other.
According to the Gospel of Matthew, the messenger angel Gabriel told the Virgin Mary she would be conceived by the Holy Spirit and would have a son and his name would be Jesus.
Matthew tells the story of the Magi (wise men) who followed a star to Bethlehem to present gifts to Jesus. Because there were only three men on Christmas cards and in art, people tend to think there were only three because of the three gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh they presented to Jesus. Research indicates that there were at least 12 men in the caravan that traveled to Bethlehem.
The wise men made a stop to talk to King Herod in Jerusalem. That delayed their trip, and it was up to two years later that they arrived. At the time, Jesus was no longer a newborn in a manger. The family had moved into a house and Jesus was a young child.
"And when they (the Magi) were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh" (Matthew 2:11).
King Herold sent out a decree for all boy babies to be killed up to two years old because he was jealous of the newborn king.
According to Luke, Mary and Joseph traveled about 70 to 80 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Mary rode on a donkey while she was in her last stage of pregnancy. There was no room for them in the inn because the city was full of people who were also there to be counted and to pay taxes. Mary and Joseph were given shelter in the stable with the animals. After Mary gave birth, she wrapped her baby son in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger just as the prophets had foretold.
On the night of Jesus' birth, shepherds were watching their flock in the field. After angels told them a Savior had been born, the shepherds left right away and visited the newborn that same night.
Notice that the lowly shepherd saw Jesus the night he was born, but the wise men did not.
Why Are Gifts Exchanged on Christmas Day?
Millions of people exchange gifts on Christmas Day even though they don't know why. Some of them do so just because others are doing it. So, why are gifts given on Christmas Day?
There is a custom of giving gifts on Christmas Day because the wise men presented gifts to Jesus to acknowledge and honor His birth. Gifts given today might not be gold, frankincense, and myrrh, but families and friends all over the world exchange gifts of their choice to show honor, love, and affection to those they care about.
By faith, most Christians believe what the Bible says about the birth of Jesus. It helps to know the background of Jesus' birth. However, we will never know all there is to know until we meet Jesus face to face.