Why is Christmas celebrated by the Church on December 25, or January 6 by the Eastern Orthodox Church?
There are many opinions on when Jesus was born. New evidence shows that Herod the Great died in January, A.D. 1, a few days after a notable eclipse of the moon, mentioned by Josephus, the Jewish historian, this full eclipse is confirmed by Astronomers.
Just a few weeks before Herod died the Magi, arrived looking for the new born child, King of the Jews. They were the Royal Professional Astronomers from the Court of the King of Persia. Travel time from Persia to Jerusalem took about three to four months. They saw His Star rising in the East, and left Persia. Tradition, left by early Christian writers, tells they arrived in Bethlehem on Dec. 25, and presented their gifts to Jesus. That date has stuck in many churches, as the date to celebrate Christmas.
Was Jesus born the night the Magi arrived? Probably not, because the Angels announced a 'Baby child', the Greek the word used is 'Brephos' meaning a new born child. After the baby was born, there was a circumcision eight days after the birth, and then a required ceremony in the Jerusalem Temple. This is mentioned as part of the Jewish law of cleansing, after the mother has recovered. This takes place 41 days after the birth of the baby. After fulfilling the legal requirements Joseph, Mary and Jesus went to Nazareth.
"After doing everything required by the Law of the Lord, Joseph and Mary returned to their hometown of Nazareth in Galilee." Luke 2:39 (These events are mentioned in Luke Chapter 2, verese 21; 22-23; and 39).
Matthew tells us "After Jesus had been born in Bethlehem of Judea . . . " Matthew 2:1 ISV. The original tense used in the Greek here, is of a continuative narrative, suggesting a later event. Joseph and Mary returned to Nazareth, and then decided to go back, and live in Bethlehem. By the time the Magi, arrived, they found the Young Child (Greek word used here is 'Paidion', meaning a toddler, several months to a year old). This term used by Matthew is repeated in Matthew 2:8, and 11. Both Herod and the Magi are talking of a Young Child, not new-born that day. Joseph, Mary, and Jesus are now living in a house! The Bible tells that Herod then determined to kill all the boys up to two years old. Jesus was about 15 months old when the Magi arrived. So the Magi came much later, in time.
That same night of the Magi's visit, Joseph woke from a dream, saddled the donkey, and they left for Egypt. The events at the time of the Magi's visit did not allow for the legal requirements of circumcision, and purification, and a visit to Nazareth. All these things came between Jesus birth in Bethlehem, September 3 B.C. and the time of the Magi's visit, 1 B.C., when Mary and Joseph were back living in Bethlehem.
What the Magi saw, was the unusual conjunction of Jupiter and Venus. These two planets were so close to each other as they appeared on the horizon, they seemed like one unsusually bright star, around September, 2 B.C. It caused comment in many lands. There followed a series of 'signs' in the heavens over the next months, indicating to the Magi, the birth of the King of the Jews. They began their journey probably in Mid-September, 1 B.C. for the 'Magi' to arrive in Jerusalem Dec 25.
It is good to Celebrate Jesus birth. The day is not really so important, but most Christian Churches have accepted the Dec. 25 day to celebrate Christmas. What is important is why Jesus was born.
So the September, 3 B.C. is the best date we have for Jesus' Birth.
1Timothy 1:15 ESV. "The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost."
Look what Paul wrote to the Christians in Colossae and Rome:
"Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ." Colossians 2:16-17
"One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks. For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living." Romans 14:5-9
Here is a link to the story of the Wise Men from the East.
January 2017 J.C-R. revised.