Dec 20th, 2020
Hello and welcome to season 3 episode 9 of The Berean Manifesto; 10 minutes or so a week of faith, hope, and love for the modern Christian. I’m Pastor Bill of The Ekklesian House and in this installment we are going to talk about Christmas.
First off, it is not my job to give you warm fuzzy feelings, or to make you feel good about yourself. So that is not what this is going to be. Year before last in season 2 episodes 4, 5, and 6 we had a great three part Christmas series where we talked about the gold, frankincense, and myrrh that the Maji brought to the around two-year-old Emmanuel (Jesus) in Bethlehem. If you haven’t already, then I recommend reading or listening to those episodes. Now, we know Jesus was around two years old when the Maji brought Him these gifts because the Maji had been following the star in the night sky for two years and Herod ordered all the boys 2 and under to be killed as a result of that timeline.
I know that’s not what you’ve seen in nativity scenes or Christmas plays, but there’s a lot about Christmas that doesn’t match the biblical story. For instance, celebrating the birth of Jesus on December 25th. When we go back to the Bible, we find Zechariah being visited by the angel of the Lord who gives him the news of the pregnancy of his wife with John. Six months later, Gabriel meets with Mary in Nazareth. According to Luke 1, Zechariah served in the order of Abijah. That would put his time of service at one of two times a year, 6 months apart from each other. With his specific order serving roughly in or around May, and again in or around November.
Jesus would have then been born approximately 15 months after Zechariah met with the angel of the Lord putting Jesus birth either in or around September or in or around March. There is no precise month to pin down due to a lack of comprehensive historical records of the priesthood until about 70 years later and then tracking back to make the best educated guess. However, we do know that the early church celebrated new year and the birth of Christ at the same time as we have April 1st every year. Which makes Easter the celebration not just of Christs resurrection, but also His birth.
So, what then, are we celebrating at Christmas? For one, people groups have historically celebrated the time of the winter solstice since it is when the nights start to grow shorter and the days longer. But more than that January 6th is the day we celebrate the Epiphany, or rather when the Maji brought gifts to the toddler Emanuel. We see reflections of this holiday in Christmas where we give gifts to each other as the Maji did to Jesus.
In Micah 5:2 there is a prophecy that reads, “Bethlehem Ephrathah you are small among the clans of times.” This is the prophecy that was delivered to King Herod in Matthew 2:6 when he asks the chief priests and scribes where The Messiah was to be born so that he could trick the Magi into finding the future king for him so he could eliminate the threat posed to his reign. Even the Magi’s arrival was prophesied, in Isaiah 60:6 it says,
“Caravans of camels will cover your land —
young camels of Midian and Ephah —
all of them will come from Sheba.
They will carry gold and frankincense
and proclaim the praises of the Lord.”
With frankincense and myrrh we attribute significance in hindsight as to why the Maji would have brought these gifts. Frankincense reminding us of the high priesthood of Christ and Myrrh reminding us of the secret reason of Christ’s coming to Earth as a man, to die for us. But, with gold it appears to be pretty straightforward that this gift indicated the recognition of the kinghood of Christ.
There is such symmetry between the three gifts that the Maji brought and the passage in Hebrews 4:14-16, the first two verses relating to frankincense and myrrh so very well, “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens — Jesus the Son of God — let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin.” It’s at verse 16 that we find gold and our response to our king. A response that is unique to our king, “Therefore, let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need.”
Let’s reign this in and refocus. How do we expect a lost, hurting, and dying world who has been taken captive by the enemy to trust us to bring them the Gospel while we embrace the myth and lies of the modern Christmas? Once a year claiming that the birth of Christ is on a day that is neither supported by historical fact or Biblical context only serves to at best water down the Gospel and at worst to lead people away from the Lord. What other convenient lies have we embraced that undermine the Gospel?
This is Pastor Bill saying, “Until next time…”