We have all heard the familiar story. Over 2000 years ago Mary rode a donkey to Bethlehem on Christmas Eve. Since there was no room in the inn, Mary had to have baby Jesus in a stable where the angels, shepherds, and wise men come to worship baby Jesus.
The only problem with this version of the story is it’s almost entirely wrong. By taking a closer look at the story we can uncover fact from fiction.
1. Mary rode a donkey: the Bible does not say how Mary arrived only that she came with Joseph.
2. Mary arrived in Bethlehem on Christmas Eve: It is more likely that the couple had been there several weeks. The Bible says only that “while they were there she delivered”.
3. There was no room in the inn: The innkeeper is actually never mentioned in the Bible.
4. Jesus was born in a stable: The Bible does say Jesus was laid in a manger because there was no room for him in the “Kataluma”. This word more likely translates as guest room rather than inn.
5. Jesus did not cry when he was born: The Bible does not indicate one way or the other whether Jesus cried when he was born. Most newborns do cry and there is no reason to believe Jesus was the exception.
6. Three kings riding camels came to see Jesus: The bible makes no mention of kings or camels visiting Jesus. It does say “magi” (wise men) came but it does not say how many. Magi is plural so there were at least two but it could have been more. The magi brought three gifts (gold, frankincense, and myrrh) but that does not indicate the number of magi that came or what country they were from.
7. The wise men came when Jesus was a baby. The magi came after Jesus was already presented at the temple. It is likely that Jesus was under two years old but could have been already walking and talking at this point.
8. Jesus was born on December 25th: The Bible does not state a specific date or month. It would be unusual for shepherds to be out in the fields during the cold time of year. Most flocks were kept from Spring through Fall. It would also be a very difficult time of year for Mary to travel the 70 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem. It is more likely that Jesus was born in late September. The Feast of Tabernacles was celebrated during the time and it would have been appropriate for Christ to have been born on this date for “the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us”. John 1:14.
9. When was Jesus conceived?: It is likely that the conception took place in December. We are actually celebrating his miraculous conception or the time when Christ was sent (Christmas = Christ sent). It was during this darkest time of year that the sun was at its greatest distance from the earth. It would make sense for God’s light to have been sent during this darkest time of the year.
10. Why is Christmas celebrated on December 25th?: Christmas means “Christ mass” a special celebration of the Lords’ Supper. The date was chosen by the Roman Catholic church. December 21st, winter solstice, is the shortest day of the year. December 25th was the first day they noted the days were getting longer. It became a day to celebrate the return of the sun. It is for this reason the church chose that day to celebrate Jesus’s birth to replace what they viewed as a pagan festival.
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