The Christmas Story: Myths and Misconceptions
Most people have heard the Christmas story at least once in their life, while many have heard it annually. Although, as the story has been retold over a long period of time, it has not always been accurately portrayed throughout speech and various forms of media. Learn about assumptions that have been made concerning the birth of Christ and how these contrast with scripture passages from the Bible.
Date of Birth
Just because we celebrate Christmas on December 25th, doesn't mean that is when Jesus was actually born. According to Bible historians, it is likely that His birth took place in the spring or fall; mainly because the shepherds were watching their sheep out in the fields at nighttime (Luke 2:8). They probably would not have been doing this in the winter months. Previously, December 25th was the day used to celebrate the birth of the invincible sun god, Mithras (Winter Solstice). It has been said that the Christian church choose this date to compete with that particular pagan holiday (and other similar celebrations around that time).
Several times, when the Christmas story is told, it's mentioned that Mary rode on a donkey to Bethlehem. This is also a popular scene depicted in pictures, showing Joseph on foot guiding the animal and a very pregnant Mary riding during the arduous journey. This particular detail is not mentioned in the Bible anywhere. It seems unlikely that a woman with child would ride a donkey to travel many miles as it would probably be quite a bumpy ride. She could have rode on some sort of wagon, but her form of transportation is unknown. Apparently, this is not an important detail as it merely mentions that she traveled with Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem (Luke 2:4, 5).
Some accounts mention Joseph asking the innkeeper if they could stay under his roof. He then apparently tells them that there is no room for them and then offers his stable for their use. Then Mary and Joseph are surrounded by docile animals during Jesus' lowly birth. The problem with this scenario is that the Bible doesn't mention an innkeeper at all (Luke 2: 4-7). It does not mention any animals either. It is possible that animals were present, considering that Jesus was placed in a manger: "a box or trough in a stable or barn from which horses or cattle eat" (dictionary.com). Also, scripture did not explicitly state that Joseph and Mary spent the night in a stable. Although, this also makes sense considering the use of the manger. Some have speculated that they might have stayed in a cave and not the traditional wooden stable. We don't know exactly where they ended up that night, but Jesus was definitely not born under normal, comfortable circumstances.
Many Christmas carols and oral stories of the Nativity mention that a host of angels sang to the shepherds after they told them about Jesus' birth. Although, surprisingly, this detail is left out of the scriptures (Luke 2:8-15). It only describes them telling the shepherds the good news that God's Son would be born. It does mention that the angels praised God, but this does not mean they glorified Him through music. They could have simply revered Him with their words as they proclaimed, "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests." (Luke 2:14).
Wise Men (The Magi)
Various aspects concerning the wise men are misconstrued throughout movies, nativity scenes, and throughout the American culture. First of all, there weren't necessarily three wise men. The number was merely assumed, because of the three gifts given to baby Jesus: gold, frankincense and myrrh (Matthew 2:11). In addition, the wise men did not visit Mary, Joseph, and the babe in Bethlehem; they came much later after the shepherds. There is not any mention of the wise men in Luke 2:15-20. Also, Matthew 2:1, 2 explains that the the Magi didn't even start on their journey to search for the Savior until after Christ's birth: "After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”" Matthew 2:9-12 expresses that the wise man visited the family at their house in Egypt (where Joseph and Mary fled to escape King Herod). This was likely at least one year but could have been up to 2 years after Jesus' birth.
I hope this has enlightened you concerning one or all aspects that were covered concerning Jesus' birth. Knowing the facts and details about this story is important. What is even more significant is understanding that Christmas is a celebration of the birth of God's Son. If you have any questions, comments, disagreements, or amens, please feel free to comment below. Thanks for reading; have a very Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year!