E-Pao! Religion - Birth of Jesus Christ

Birth of Jesus Christ

By: Dr M. Horam *

The date of the birth of Jesus Christ cannot be determined precisely. Mathew says (2:1) that he was born ‘in the days of Herod’. Since Herod died in 4 BC this would suggest that Jesus birth occurred earlier than this. Luke says (3:1-2) that John the baptist began preaching in the fifteenth year of the Emperor Tiberius (26 or 27 AD) and that Jesus was baptized by him shortly afterward and was ‘about thirty years old’ when he began his own ministry.

When we work back in time, we are obliged to date Jesus birth four to six years before that hallowed by long use. It should be taken account that we possess no scriptural data for fixing the month and day of the birth. Both the Roman date of December 25th and the Armenian date of January 6th are of later origin and reflect the needs and decisions of post-New Testament times.

In another place Luke says (2:1-4) that Jesus was born during a census ordered by Augustus Caesar when Quirinius was Governor of Syria (6-9 AD). This shows some confusion on Luke's-part. However, if we accept the evidence that Quirinius was in the service of the legate to Syria sometime before his governorship, we can suppose, as some scholars do, that Luke was recalling a time when Quirinius was dispatched to Judea to conduct census ten or twelve years prior to his governorship.

As to the place of Jesus's birth, we again face uncertainty. Mathew and Luke are authorities for saying that he was born in Bethlehem, ‘the city of David’ but since these gospel writers were moved by early church's desire to make certain that Jesus was David's descendant and came from Bethlehem as Messianic prescribed, scholars are to raise questions.

Greater certainty attaches to an assertion in which all the evangelists agree, that the home of the family was in Nazareth of Galilee. It was there that Joseph pursued the trade of carpenter, and so far as we know, upto Jesus's thirthieth year all but a few weeks of Jesus; life spent there.

Although He seems to have been called ‘Jesus the Prophet of Nazareth of Galilee’ by his contemporaries (Mathew 21:11) suggesting that this His birth place, the two Gospels that speak of His birth are agreed that He was born in Bethlehem of Judea.

According to Luke, the reason he was born there was that ‘there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed......And all went to be taxed, everyone in to his own city. And Joseph also went up to Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem (because he was of the house and lineage of David) to be taxed with Marry his espoused wife, being great with child (Luke 2: 1-5).

Both Gospels agree that Mary's child has been conceived through the miraculous action of God the Holy Spirit, without a human father. The miracle was made known to Mary by angelic messenger, who informed her that her child shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest (Luke 1 :32).

History is full of men who have claimed that they came from God, or that they bore messages from god: Buddha, Mohammed, Confucius, Lao-tze, and thousands of others, right down to the person who founded a new religion this very day. Each of them has a right to be heard and considered. Jesus’s birth was surely pre-announced and predicted.

We may examine a few of these predictions. If we search out the various Messianic currents in the Old testament, and compares the resulting picture with the life and work of Christ, there is no doubt about His birth of pre-announcement.

God's promise to the Patriarchs that through them all the nations of the earth would be blessed with a son; one finds clearly predicted the virgin birth of the Messiah; prophecy of Isaiah reads:

For to us a child is born,
To us a Son is given,
And the Government will be upon His shoulder,
And His name will be called,
Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God.
And everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

(Isaiah 9:6-7)

Let us turn to pagan testimony: Tacitus, speaking for the ancient Roman, says: ‘People were generally persuaded in the faith of the ancient prophecies, that the east was to prevail, and that from Judea was to come the master and Ruler of the World’.

China had the same expectation: The Annals of the Celestial Empire contain the statement: ‘In the 24th year of Tchao-wang of the dynasty of the Tcheon, on the 8th day of the 4th moonlight appeared in the South West which illuminated the King's palace. The monarch, struck by its splendour, interrogated the sages. They showed books in which this prodigy signify the appearance of the great Saint of the West where religion was to be introduced into their country’.

The Greeks expected Him, for Aechylus in his Prometheus six centuries before His coming, wrote, ‘Look not for any end, moreover, to the curse until God Appears, to accept upon His Head the pangs of his thy own sins vicarious’.

Not only these wise men were expecting the birth of a great King, a wise man and a Saviour, but Plato and Socrates also spoke of the LOGOS and the universal wise men ‘Yet to Come’. Confucius spoke of coming: ‘the Saint’. There are other several predictions of Jesus’s birth.

Another distinguishing fact about His birth is that once He appeared, He struck history with such impact that He split it in two, dividing it into two periods: one before His coming (BC) the other after it. (AD).

In the New Testament, St. John said, in the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the was God (John 1:1-5). And the word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1: 4-15).

Jesus birth was pre-announced: Mary, nearing her time of delivery, came to Bethlehem with Joseph, and there Jesus was born. The circumstances of His birth, in a stable because there was no room for them in the inn (Luke 2:7) were rude and humble.

Yet even there were portents of the future. Angels were reported to have appeared to shepherds in the Judean hills, announcing the birth of a child who was to be ‘Christ the Lord’ (Luke 2:11) and there were reports (Mathew 2:1-12) that wise men or astrologers had been led by special star from ‘the east’ to the place where the child had been born.

According to the Gopsel of Mathew, which tells the story of the wise men, their visit aroused the jealousy of Herod, the King of Jewish Palestine, who threatened the life of the child, compelling Joseph and Mary to escape to Egypt until the danger was past.

As indicated earlier, in accordance with the edict, Mary and Joseph set out from the village of Nazareth for the city of Bethlehem to register themselves. Joseph was full of expectancy as he entered the city of his family, and was quite convinced that he would have no difficulty in finding lodgings for Mary, particularly on account of her conditions.

Joseph went from house to house only to find each one crowded. He searched in vain for a place where he, to whom heaven and earth, might be born. But sadly, ‘There was no room in the inn’ but there was room in the stable. The inn is the gathering place of public opinion, the focal point of the world's moods, the rendezvous of the worldly, the rallying place of the popular and the successful.

But the stable is a place, for the outcastes, the ignored, the forgotten. The world might have expected the Son of God to be born-if He was to be born at all - in an inn. A stable would be the last place in the world where one could have looked for Him. Divinity is always where one least expects to find it.

At Bethlehem the Divine Son went into an eclipse, so that only the humble of spirit might recognized Him. Only two classes of people found the babe: the Shepherds and the Wise men: the simple and the learned: those who knew that they knew nothing, and those who knew that they did not know everything.

Only the humble can find God.

* Dr M. Horam wrote this article on the eve of Christmans 2007 for The Sangai Express. This article was webcasted on December 29th, 2007

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