What if there was proof that God became a baby at Christmas?

I love Christmas carols. They are the soundtrack of the season.

As great as carols are, it’s possible to make it through the whole month of December, hear these tunes, and yet not tune in to what the carols are really saying.

On closer inspection, Christmas carols make some audacious claims. Consider just a few lines from Hark the Herald Angels Sing:

Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see

Hail, the incarnate Deity

Pleased as man, with men to dwell

Jesus, our Immanuel

What an absurd idea. God being limited to one place at a time? God learning how to walk? God… relieving Himself? It’s almost offensive.

But this is actually the central claim of Christmas—not merely that a baby was born in a manger, but that this baby born in a manger was God in human flesh. That’s what we’re celebrating for the 2019th time next week.

The famous atheist Carl Sagan once said, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” I think Carl Sagan makes a reasonable point. So let’s consider some extraordinary evidence that on that first Christmas, God really did step down into history.

History Written In Advance

The Bible is a fascinating book, not least because it made many predictions or “prophecies” of events before they happened. This makes it possible to test whether it is just a human book, or one that God was involved in writing.

The Old Testament is the first big section of the Bible, written hundreds of years before Jesus came. In its pages are prophecy after prophecy about a coming king called the Messiah.

“Christmas carols make some audacious claims.”

In Old Testament times, the Jews dreamed of the day the Messiah would come and rescue their nation from oppression, sin and judgment. The Messiah was no less than the hope of Israel.

Many specific predictions were made about this Messiah: his birthplace, how he would be raised, how people would react to him, what his mission was—and many more. So let’s take a quick look at just some of these prophecies, to see if they check out.

“The Messiah was no less than the hope of Israel.”

I am a bit skeptical by nature. Maybe you are too. Maybe you suspect that these “predictions” were forged after the event to just make Jesus look like he was the Messiah.

But actually, history doesn’t let us draw that conclusion. All the Scriptures I quote below were translated into Greek two centuries before Jesus was born, in a well-known ancient text called the Septuagint. In other words, they appeared in history long before Jesus did, so they were definitely predictive.

We will look at these in rapid fire. They throw up a lot of separate ideas, but bear with me—we will tie all of it together at the end.

The Identity of the Messiah

The first is from a prophet called Balaam. He said:

“I see him, but not here and now. I perceive him, but far in the distant future.
A star will rise from Jacob; a sceptre will emerge from Israel.”
Numbers 24:17a

A sceptre is a ruler’s staff. So in other words, this Messiah would be a ruler, and he would also be an ethnic Jew.

Next is the prophet Isaiah:

“The people who walk in darkness will see a great light.
For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine…
A child is born to us, a son is given to us.
The government will rest on his shoulders.
And he will be called: Wonderful Counsellor,
Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
Isaiah 9:2,7

A second time here we have the mention of a star or a bright light associated with the Messiah’s birth. Also, he will be given lofty titles like “Mighty God” — and he will in some way form the foundation of government.

In another passage, God has more to say through the prophet Isaiah:

“You will do more than restore the people of Israel to Me.
I will make You a light to the Gentiles, and You will bring My salvation to the ends of the earth.”
Isaiah 49:6

So far the predictions we’ve looked at focus on the nation of Israel. But here we see that the Messiah’s saving work would extend to Gentile (non-Jewish) nations all around the world.

This next prediction came to King David:

“When you die and join your ancestors, I will raise up one of your descendants, one of your sons, and I will make His kingdom strong… I will be his Father, and he will be My Son. I will never take my favour from Him as I took it from the one who ruled before you. I will confirm Him as king over My house and My kingdom for all time, and His throne will be secure forever.”
1 Chronicles 17:11-13

So the Messiah’s ancestry is narrowing. Not only will he be an Israelite, but he would be a descendant of King David, who came from the tribe of Judah.

The Messiah’s role is also narrowing. Not only will he be a ruler, but he will be a king ruling over a kingdom—a kingdom that never ends. The Messiah would also have a unique relationship to God: He will be called the “Son of God”.

Here’s another prophecy from Isaiah:

“The Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child!
She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us’.”
Isaiah 7:14-15

Here we read that the Messiah would be born of a virgin. And the people will regard Him as Immanuel—God with us.

Just a couple more prophecies to go. The prophet Micah said:

“You, O Bethlehem, are only a small village among all the people of Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel, whose origins are in the distant past, will come from you on my behalf.”—Micah 5:2

So it’s clear that the Messiah was expected to be born in Bethlehem.

A Most Remarkable Prediction

This last one is the most remarkable of all. It was spoken by Jacob, the father of the Jewish nation:

“The sceptre will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from his descendants,
until the coming of the one to whom it belongs, the one whom all nations will honour.”
Genesis 49:10

Again we see that the Messiah would come from the tribe of Judah and that the nations of the world would honour Him. But most fascinating is this line about the sceptre departing.

Long before Jesus, the Romans had captured Judea and made it a province of their empire. The Jews still held the sceptre there—in other words, they retained their ruling privileges. But all that changed in AD 7. Rome appointed a procurator in Judea, and took Jewish rule away.

“Most fascinating is this line about the sceptre departing.”

This was devastating to the Jewish leaders. But they weren’t just upset because they lost the right to rule. They were heartbroken because it looked like this prophecy from Genesis 49:10 had been broken: the sceptre had departed, but “the one” had failed to come.

It’s said that in AD 7, the Jewish leaders went about in sackcloth and ashes, mourning,
“Woe unto us, for the sceptre has been taken from Judah, and the Messiah has not appeared!”

Little did they know that a few days’ walk north, in the village of Nazareth, a little boy named Jesus was running the dusty streets with his playmates.

Do You Have Room for Jesus?

To summarise, we have looked at just a handful of prophecies, and things are getting really narrow.
According to the Jewish Scriptures, the Messiah had to:

  • be Jewish
  • be from the tribe of Judah
  • be from the family of David
  • be born to a virgin
  • be born in Bethlehem
  • have an arrival associated with a star or a bright light
  • provide a foundation for government
  • be known about and worshipped throughout the world
  • be acknowledged as a king, as God in human form, as the unique Son of God
  • be born before AD 7

You could spend a lot of time trawling through history books but you won’t find many candidates that fulfil all of these predictions. But Jesus does. Remarkably so.

In fact, we’ve only compiled a list of ten predictions about the Messiah. We could look at another 90 — among them that He would be executed, have His hands and feet pierced, that His executioners would gamble for His clothes, that He’d be buried in a rich man’s grave. The list goes on and on.

Every one of these prophecies were written in black and white hundreds of years before Jesus was born.
Each of them was fulfilled down to the finest detail in His life.

“Christmas carols are a call for us to invite Jesus into our homes and hearts.”

Believing that God stepped into history that first Christmas isn’t a blind leap of faith into the dark.
It’s a very sensible step into the light.

In the days leading up to Christmas, there is so much to distract us from what this holiday is all about.
We can enjoy all of the Christmas tradition, and yet be just like Bethlehem’s innkeeper who had no room for Jesus.

Christmas carols are a call for us to invite Jesus into our homes and hearts. This Christmas, will you join shepherds, angels and wise men to honour the King of Kings?

Let every heart prepare Him room

Come, adore on bended knee

Merry Christmas. Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth!

Edward Burne-Jones, The Adoration of the Magi (1886 Morris & Co. tapestry, Art Gallery of South Australia)

___

By |2019-12-19T17:14:38+11:00December 19th, 2019|Authors, Faith|6 Comments

About the Author:

Kurt Mahlburg is a qualified primary school teacher and a freelance writer. He blogs at Culture, Worldviews and Life with Jesus, besides writing for the Canberra Declaration and occasionally The Spectator Australia.

He has a particular interest in speaking the truths of Jesus into the public square in a way that makes sense to a secular culture and that gives Christians courage to do the same.

Kurt has also studied architecture, has lived for two years on a remote island in Indonesia, is fluent in several Indonesian languages, and among his other interests are philosophy, history, surf, the outdoors, and travel.

6 Comments

  1. Neville Russell December 21, 2019 at 4:10 pm - Reply

    This is a wonderful summary of the early prophesies about the birth of Jesus. I was very sad not to se any nativity scenes in the Mall in Wollongong on Thursday last. If only people would believe in the truth of Jesus and repent of their sins perhaps we wouldn’t have this devastating drought and bushfires.

  2. Margaret Anne Box December 22, 2019 at 11:55 pm - Reply

    Dear Sir, There is no actual proof that Jesus was born on December 25th – on what we call Christmas.
    No shepherds were in the fields at late December. Jesus may have been born at the time of the Feast of Tabernacles. John the Baptist conceived Passover. 6 months later – Jesus conceived probably at Hanukkah – 22nd December this year. Thus He is the light of the world – the light celebrated at the restoration of the temple. We too are to be lights to go into all the world.
    Yours faithfully,
    Margaret Box.

    • Jean Seah December 27, 2019 at 7:04 pm - Reply

      Dear Margaret,
      Thank you for your comment.
      Here is some background to the Dec 25 date for Christmas:

      “The Awassi sheep is a desert sheep, a fat-tailed breed that has existed in the Middle East for an estimated 5,000 years. It is the only indigenous breed of sheep in Israel. They are raised for wool, meat, and milk. Awassi sheep breed in the summer and drop lambs in the winter, when there is sufficient pasture for the ewes in milk. In Israel, the principal lambing season is December through January.”
      https://aleteia.org/2017/12/10/biological-evidence-that-jesus-actually-was-born-in-december/

      “The first step is to use Scripture to determine the birthday of Saint John the Baptist. The next step is using Saint John the Baptist’s birthday as the key for finding Christ’s birthday. We can discover that Christ was born in late December by observing first the time of year in which Saint Luke describes Saint Zacharias in the temple. This provides us with the approximate conception date of Saint John the Baptist. From there we can follow the chronology that Saint Luke gives, and that lands us at the end of December.

      Saint Luke reports that Zacharias served in the “course of Abias” (Lk 1:5) which Scripture records as the eighth course among the twenty-four priestly courses (Neh 12:17). Each shift of priests served one week in the temple for two times each year. The course of Abias served during the eighth week and the thirty-second week in the annual cycle.[ii]However, when did the cycle of courses begin?

      Josef Heinrich Friedlieb has convincingly established that the first priestly course of Jojarib was on duty during the destruction of Jerusalem on the ninth day of the Jewish month of Av.[iii]Thus the priestly course of Jojarib was on duty during the second week of Av. Consequently, the priestly course of Abias (the course of Saint Zacharias) was undoubtedly serving during the second week of the Jewish month of Tishri—the very week of the Day of Atonement on the tenth day of Tishri. In our calendar, the Day of Atonement would land anywhere from September 22 to October 8.

      Zacharias and Elizabeth conceived John the Baptist immediately after Zacharias served his course. This entails that Saint John the Baptist would have been conceived somewhere around the end of September, placing John’s birth at the end of June, confirming the Catholic Church’s celebration of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist on June 24.

      The second-century Protoevangelium of Saint James also confirms a late September conception of the Baptist since the work depicts Saint Zacharias as High Priest and as entering the Holy of Holies—not merely the holy place with the altar of incense. This is a factual mistake because Zacharias was not the high priest, but one of the chief priests.[iv]Still, the Protoevangelium regards Zacharias as a high priest and this associates him with the Day of Atonement, which lands on the tenth day of the Hebrew month of Tishri (roughly the end of our September). Immediately after this entry into the temple and message of the Archangel Gabriel, Zacharias and Elizabeth conceive John the Baptist. Allowing for forty weeks of gestation, this places the birth of John the Baptist at the end of June—once again confirming the Catholic date for the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist on June 24.

      The rest of the dating is rather simple. We read that just after the Immaculate Virgin Mary conceived Christ, she went to visit her cousin Elizabeth who was six months pregnant with John the Baptist. This means that John the Baptist was six months older that our Lord Jesus Christ (Lk 1:24-27, 36). If you add six months to June 24 you get December 24-25 as the birthday of Christ. Then, if you subtract nine months from December 25 you get that the Annunciation was March 25. All the dates match up perfectly. So then, if John the Baptist was conceived shortly after the Jewish Day of the Atonement, then the traditional Catholic dates are essentially correct. The birth of Christ would be about or on December 25.”
      https://taylormarshall.com/2012/12/yes-christ-was-really-born-on-december.html

      ‘There is some fleeting evidence that at least some first- and second-century Christians thought of March 25th or April 6th as the date of Christ’s birth, but rather quickly the assignment of March 25th as the date of Christ’s conception prevailed.

      It is to this day, commemorated almost universally among Christians as the Feast of the Annunciation, when the Archangel Gabriel brought the good tidings of a savior to the Virgin Mary, upon whose acquiescence the Eternal Word of God (“Light of Light, True God of True God, begotten of the Father before all ages”) forthwith became incarnate in her womb. What is the length of pregnancy? Nine months. Add nine months to March 25th and you get December 25th; add it to April 6th and you get January 6th. December 25th is Christmas, and January 6th is Epiphany.’
      https://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=16-10-012-v

      God bless,
      Jean

  3. […] hope to everyone. At every Christmas table surely every neighbour is welcome. It is also true that Christianity is true. And that it is completely […]

  4. Brian McMichan January 1, 2020 at 4:03 pm - Reply

    This information was obtained off the internet … it explains where the sheep flocks would be in winter (late December) plus a number of other points to support a birth date of late September … but the big “point” to be observed is “God our Father has NOT revealed the exact birth date of baby Jesus … so why does man push to prove/evaluate what Father doesn’t want focussed on?

    Man has introduced many “rules” contrary to what is written in the Bible … but a major one is that Jesus came to the man that Father designated as the person to baptise Jesus …… John the Baptist … plus baptism was done in a river (or body of water) … “and as Jesus came UP out of the water, He received the anointing of the Holy Spirit” …. he was submerged in the river, thus washing the “old man” away (the carpenter) thus He became a new spiritual creation and Jesus the Christ. …… Please read John 3:3 …. man’s use of “sprinkling water on babes (who cannot make a choice to take a step of faith) is contrary to Father’s will AND John 3:3

    When Was Jesus Born?

    The Bible’s answer

    The Bible does not give a specific date for the birth of Jesus Christ, as these reference works show:
    • “The true birth date of Christ is unknown.”—New Catholic Encyclopedia.
    • “The exact date of Christ’s birth is not known.”—Encyclopedia of Early Christianity.
    While the Bible does not directly answer the question, ‘When was Jesus born?’ it does describe two events surrounding his birth that lead many to conclude that he was not born on December 25.

    Not in winter

    1. The registration. Shortly before Jesus was born, Caesar Augustus issued a decree ordering “all the inhabited earth to be registered.” Everyone had to register in “his own city,” which might have required a journey of a week or more. (Luke 2:1-3) That order—probably made to support taxation and military conscription—would have been unpopular at any time of year, but it is unlikely that Augustus would have provoked his subjects further by forcing many of them to make long trips during the cold winter.
    2. The sheep. Shepherds were “living out of doors and keeping watches in the night over their flocks.” (Luke 2:8) The book Daily Life in the Time of Jesus notes that flocks lived in the open air from “the week before the Passover [late March]” through mid-November. It then adds: “They passed the winter under cover; and from this alone it may be seen that the traditional date for Christmas, in the winter, is unlikely to be right, since the Gospel says that the shepherds were in the fields.”

    o In early fall (Autumn 2019 -began Monday, September 23 -ends Sunday, December 22)

    We can estimate when Jesus was born by counting backward from his death on Passover, Nisan 14 in the spring of the year 33 C.E. (John 19:14-16) Jesus was about 30 years old when he began his three-and-a-half-year ministry, so he was born in the early fall of 2 B.C.E.—Luke 3:23. (near about 23 September)

    Why is Christmas on December 25?

    Since there is no evidence that the birth of Jesus Christ occurred on December 25, why is Christmas celebrated on this date? The Encyclopædia Britannica says that church leaders probably chose it “to coincide with the pagan Roman festival marking the ‘birthday of the unconquered sun,’” at the time of the winter solstice. According to The Encyclopedia Americana, many scholars believe that this was done “in order to make Christianity more meaningful to pagan converts.”

    Also, “man” introduced Santa … which has become the major feature to most children at “Christmas time” … children are deceived with a fictional character ….. move the “N” in Santa & what is revealed …. SATAN …. the master deceiver.

  5. Brian McMichan January 1, 2020 at 4:13 pm - Reply

    As Easter will be the main focus of many in the world in a few months … I submit this for consideration as Christ Jesus stated, “The Truth will set you free!”

    “Good Friday” This day was made as a fast day by the Roman Catholic Church in the 4th century A.D. (long after Jesus died). Its purpose is to commemorate the crucifixion and death of Jesus. The following is the Catholic Church’s explanation.

    “Good Friday is the English designation of Friday in Holy Week . . . (the day) on which the Church keeps the anniversary of the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

    “From the earliest times the Christians kept every Friday as a feast day; and the obvious reasons for those usages explain why Easter is the Sunday par excellence, and why the Friday which marks the anniversary of Christ’s death came to be called . . . Some say it (the term) is from Gottes Freitag; others maintain that it is from the German Gute Freitag, and not specially English.” (The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VI, 1909)

    Another source clarifies why the Catholics called for a FAST on this “good” day, how someone might observe it, and when the death of Jesus is actually celebrated.

    “The Catholic Church treats (this day) as a fast day, which in the Latin Rite of the Church is understood as having only one full meal (but smaller than a regular meal) and two collations (a smaller repast, two of which together do not equal one full meal) and on which the faithful abstain from eating meat. In countries where (it is celebrated it) is not a day of rest from work, the afternoon liturgical service is usually put off until a few hours after the recommended time of 3 p.m.
    “The Celebration of the Passion of the Lord takes place in the afternoon, ideally at three o’clock, but for pastoral reasons a later hour may be chosen. The vestments used (by Roman Catholic priests) are red (more commonly) or black (more traditionally).”

    According to Catholic dogma, which has largely been carried over into the Protestant churches, Jesus was killed on Friday and resurrected Sunday morning (in 33 A.D. usually), with the anniversaries of those dates observed as part of the Easter celebration.

    A little research shows that the origin of what is called Easter has NO Biblical basis whatsoever! The Early New Testament church neither taught nor observed an Easter holiday. In order to move people away from celebrating the Biblical Christian Passover, the Catholic Church adopted and Christianized a pagan holiday that celebrated the false goddess Ishtar (Astarte). The Babylonians and Assyrians worshiped this goddess. She symbolized fertility, love, war, and sex. The holiday in her honor occurred around the spring equinox.

    According to the BIBLE, Jesus was crucified and died at 3 p.m. on a Wednesday (in 30 A.D.), spent three full days and nights in a tomb (72 hours total), then was resurrected back to life by God just before sunset Saturday. In order to fulfill prophecy Jesus could not have died on “Good Friday!” ….. conclusion – supper with the disciples on Tuesday evening … into the Garden of Gethsemane early A.M on Wednesday, arrested by the temple guards before dawn on the Wednesday, taken to Pilate later in the day, voted by the Jewish people to “crucify Him”, crucified about 10am. & died at about 3 pm on the Wednesday; into the tomb (bound in burial cloth/ aromatics) before sunset on the Wednesday.
    In the tomb 3 FULL days (Matt 12:40 For even as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.) – rose again *the stone (the Old Covenant – the Law) had been rolled away” … even though temple guards were guarding the tomb) …. Just after sunset on the Saturday … women came to the tomb on early Sunday morning…. He was there … He was risen.

    So …. “Good Friday” is a man made deception to delude peple to the truth that He was crucified on Wednesday & rose again soon after sunset on the Saturday …. Ready to meet the women very early on Sunday morning …. 3 FULL days in the tomb – sunset Wednesday to Sunset Saturday as he stated in Matt 12:40)

    Read Matthew 26-28, John 18-20

    QUESTION: What does the word Easter mean in Acts 12:4?

    ANSWER: First, let us take a look at the King James Bible verse in question in its context.
    “Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. And he killed James the brother of John with the sword. And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also (Then were the days of unleavened bread). And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after EASTER … (?? Easter NOT mentioned in the Bible) to bring him forth to the people. ” (Acts 12:1 – 4, KJV)

    Acts 12:1-4 New King James Version (NKJV)

    12 Now about that time Herod the king stretched out his hand to harass some from the church. 2 Then he killed James the brother of John with the sword. 3 And because he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to seize Peter also. Now it was during the Days of Unleavened Bread. 4 So when he had arrested him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four squads of soldiers to keep him, intending to bring him before the people after Passover.
    (Amp) Acts 12:1 ABOUT THAT time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to afflict {and} oppress {and} torment some who belonged to the church (assembly).

    Acts 12:2 And he killed James the brother of John with a sword;

    Acts 12:3 And when he saw that it was pleasing to the Jews, he proceeded further and arrested Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread [the Passover week].

    Acts 12:4 And when he had seized [Peter], he put him in prison and delivered him to four squads of soldiers of four each to guard him, purposing after the Passover to bring him forth to the people.

    The second part of your question needs a bit of clarification and explanation. Biblically speaking, the Passover was not a “Jewish” festival although Jews (members of the tribe of Judah or citizens of the Kingdom of Judah) certainly celebrated this Feast day. The Passover is one of God’s annual Holy Days he commanded ancient Israel to keep.
    The first century church did not rename the Passover to Easter. The word is a derivative of Ishtar or Astarte. It is the name of a pagan goddess of fertility celebrated during the Spring solstice.

    The introduction of Sunday as a day to commemorate the death of Christ first began after Roman Emperor Hadrian crushed a Jewish rebellion (132-135 A.D.). After his victory he rebuilt the city ruins and expelled all Jews and Christians. He undertook a policy of banning the practice of any religious ceremony or event that resembled what the Jews practiced (e.g. Saturday Sabbath, etc.).

    As the church historian Eusebius states, a replacement occurred of Jerusalem’s Jewish-Christian leaders with Gentile church members and leaders. The new leaders changed the traditional date of observing the Christian Passover to SUNDAY. Many Gentile-Christian churches such as the one found in Rome adopted such changes. Over time, the name of the celebration changed.

    The confusion concerning the word in the Bible began because scholars whose orientation was toward Catholic and Anglican church doctrines wrote the King James Version Bible. This bias caused some errors in translating the original Bible text into English. One such error was translating the Greek word pascha (Strong’s Concordance #G3957), which means “Passover,” as the English word Easter.

    The naming of the celebration as “Easter” seems to go back to the name of a pre-Christian goddess in England, Eostre, who was celebrated at beginning of spring. The only reference to this goddess comes from the writings of the Venerable Bede, a British monk who lived in the late seventh and early eighth century.

    Again … more deception, which the vast majority of the world abides by!

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