Monday, December 5, 2011

The Date of the First Christmas

The exact day of Jesus’ birth is highly debated. If you search it out, you can find theories that propose almost every month of the year. The truth is no one knows for sure when Jesus was born. Celebrating His birth on December 25th began in the fourth century, but earliest Christians celebrated it on Epiphany (the day many believe to be the baptismals date of Jesus Christ) which is January 6th.

I have no clue as to when the exact day was, but some people think that Jesus Christ not only died during Passover, but that He was born during Passover. If that were true it seems the gospels writers would have mentioned it, but whether it is true or not, I like to think about the possibility because the symbolism is so beautiful and thinking about it is the perfect way to begin the Christmas season.

Called by the Jews Pesach, Passover commemorates the Exodus, which delivered the Children of Israel out of the bondage they suffered for so many years in Egypt.

In the book of Exodus we are told how God helped the Israelites escape slavery in Egypt by inflicting ten plagues upon the Egyptians. Enduring the plagues which included water turned to blood, an infestation of frogs and flies, suffering with boils on the skin, and enduring deep darkness Pharaoh stubbornly refused to release the Israelites until the final plague in which all the firstborn children of the Egyptians were killed by a destroying angel.

The Israelites, however, escaped this plague because the Lord had instructed them to mark the doorposts of their homes with blood from a sacrificial lamb. When the destroying angel passed through Egypt he passed over any home with blood on the doorposts, thus the name Pesakh which means Passover.

Every year Jews celebrate Pesach by preparing a meal of lamb, unleavened bread, and bitter herbs—symbols of that first miraculous Passover. The meaning of the lamb is obvious—it is about the Lamb of God, the Messiah, who would come to free us from death and the bondage of sin. Because the Israelites left in haste there was no time for bread to rise, thus the unleavened bread which is also a symbol of not being puffed up with sin. And the bitter herbs were to remind them of the long bitter years they were enslaved in Egypt.

Thus if the birth did occur during Passover, on that first Christmas night families throughout the land may have prepared and eaten their the bitter herbs, while the Son of God came into the world to offer a sacrifice that would set right all the bitter experiences of life. They may have eaten unleavened bread while the Messiah was born to save us from sin, and they may have tasted the Passover lamb, at the very moment The Lamb of God was being born.

Whether the first Christmas occured during Passover or not,the symbolism is beautiful. Because He was born, the nullifying effects of death will pass over all of us. He was born to save us, and we will live because He died.

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