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“No one knows for sure when Jesus was actually born. Why do we make so much of this holiday?”
This is not a new question. We have over the years addressed it and its corollaries; i.e., the debate over the actual date, the crass commercialism associated with Christmas and which parts of the Christmas story are indeed biblical and which are merely figments of our tradition.
We will never identify the actual date. There are hints in Scripture related to the reign of various rulers and times of the Hebrew calendar (Lk. 1:26; 2:1ff). We have a few hints from tradition in which early church fathers made claims for one date or another. The fact is, this is not really a critical issue. There are more important things to think about.
The “Christmas season” is valuable for believers and non-believers alike. Basically the whole country pauses for a moment (the frenzied shopping and partying notwithstanding) to reflect a bit on life, on what is good and right. For a shining moment, we make unapologetic wishes for blessings, peace and joy. We give gifts of love and appreciation. These things can only be good for us as a whole. The timing is also fortuitous: arriving just before the beginning of a new year, the Christmas season fits nicely with our hopes for making a fresh start.
For Christians, Christmas focuses on Christ, the center of the faith. The gospel accounts surrounding the historical event of His incarnation set the stage for His earthly ministry, death and resurrection. The birth stories (Mt. 1:18ff; Lk. 1-2) occupy a rightful place in the wide scope of “salvation history,” the mighty acts of God since before the foundation of the Earth (Eph. 1:3ff) aimed at reconciling all of us to Himself … a Christmas message worth thinking about.
To send questions or to communicate with Pastor McCullough,
write to firstname.lastname@example.org.