The Christmas story found in Luke 2 is a passage I have known since I was little. Even as a toddler, I memorized short portions of the chapter for Christmas performances at church.
While reading Luke 2 earlier this Christmas season, I realized that I had a few misconceptions about the first Christmas. Much of what I believed about Jesus’ birth was based on oral tradition, plays, and movies–all of which are man’s interpretation.
Below are ten facts about Christ’s birth that might surprise you.
1. Mary and Joseph were probably not the only couple in need of housing in Bethlehem. I don’t know why I always pictured Mary and Joseph as the struggling young couple that arrived late to the party. Because of their tardiness, they narrowly missed the opportunity to sleep in the last vacant bed. In reality, there were probably hundreds of nomads sleeping in the streets during the census.
2. Jesus was not necessarily born on the first night that Mary and Joseph were in Bethlehem. Once again, this view of mine was unwarranted. Luke 2:6 says, “While they were there, the time came for her to give birth.” This could have happened at any point during their stay.
3. Jesus may not have been born at night. The only mention of nighttime in the passage is that the angel spoke to the shepherds as they were “keeping watch over their flocks by night” (Luke 2:8).
4. Mary may not have given birth to Jesus in a stable. In his account of Jesus’ birth, Luke does not mention a stable. He simply says that Mary placed Jesus in a feeding trough because there was no other cradle. The birth very well could have occurred elsewhere.
5. We don’t know how many wise men there were. There could have been two. There could have been two hundred. All we know is that they brought three gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
6. The wise men were not at Jesus’ birth. They left Asia when Jesus was born, but they did not see Jesus himself for quite some time (probably a couple of years).
7. The Holy Spirit was present in the lives of humans before the day of Pentecost. Somewhere along the line, I began believing that the Holy Spirit was somewhat inactive until Acts 2. I assumed He was present but not part of human activity. However Luke 2:26 says that Simeon had the Holy Spirit “upon him.”
8. Even in the first century AD, people lived to be over 100. If Anna was thirteen years old when she got married, then she was at 114 years old when Jesus was born.
9. Jesus was probably not born December 25. The Bible does not mention an exact date. In fact, Jewish shepherding culture points to Jesus being born in early fall.
10. Jesus was not born in the year 1 A.D. When Dionysius Exiguus divided history into B.C. (Before Christ) and A.D. (in the year of our Lord), he likely miscalculated by a few years.
Questions of the day:
What new facts have you learned recently?
Why do you celebrate Christmas?