At this time of year people begin to prepare for the holiday known as Christmas. This highly commercialized season of the year means different things to different people, ranging from raucous drunkenness and immorality to pious celebration of the birth of the Savior of man. In fulfillment of prophecy Christ was born during the reign of the Roman emperor, Caesar Augustus, while Quirinius was governor of Syria (Luke 2:1-2). The place of birth was in the Judean city of Bethlehem to the virgin Mary (Luke 2:3-4). Because there were no accommodations for Joseph and Mary in the inn, the King of kings and Lord of lords was born in a stable and laid in a feeding trough for animals (Luke 2:5-7). Most of the known world now celebrates his birth marking deity’s entrance into the world. Over a period of time, however, there has been introduced some aspects of the story of his birth that are fictional; material that is based on human tradition rather than based upon divine revelation. In the space allotted we will seek to distinguish between fact and fiction.
Consider some biblical facts about the birth of Christ. First, we learn that Christ was, indeed, born of a virgin. Mary’s betrothed husband, Joseph, was told by an angel of God that she was found with child of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:18-25). This was a miraculous conception since she had not had sexual relations with any man at the time (Matthew 1:18, 25). Joseph later became her husband and the father of other children whom she bore (Mark 6:3). Second, Jesus was born in a stable (Luke 2:7). The normal place where travelers might find lodging was not available to Joseph and Mary at the time. They were content to find repose in one of the stalls reserved for the animals. At his birth, Jesus was laid in a manger (feeding trough) and wrapped in swaddling clothes (Luke 2:7). Third, wise men from the east worshipped him after his birth (Matthew 2:1-12). The Bible does not specify from which country they came.
Various fictional stories have been associated with Jesus’ birth. Because three different gifts are mentioned at the time of their visit (Matthew 2:11), some have concluded that it was three wise men who came to worship Jesus. The Bible does not say how many there were. Furthermore, typical manger scenes today depict the wise men coming to the stable where Jesus was born. However, the Bible says they came to the house where he was living at the time with his parents (Matthew 2:11) Sufficient time had passed from the time of Christ’s birth to the wise men’s visit that Joseph and Mary had taken up residency in a house. Another fictional matter associated with Christ’s birth is its celebration on December 25. No one really knows when he was born, but likely it was not in December. It was warm enough for shepherd to be in the field at night caring for their flock (Luke 2:8). Additionally, there is no indication in Scripture that God wants men to remember any one day in honor of Christ’s birth. Only the first day of each week is set aside by the Lord for special religious significance (Acts 20:7) and that was for the purpose of commemorating his death.
We conclude that the fact of Christ’s birth is important, but the time of it is not. Christians should not be bound by religious custom established by man. However, we are at liberty to observe national holidays or secular seasons (Romans 14:1-10). While we appreciate Christmas as a holiday, we realize it is not a holy day established by God for man to observe as a religious festival.