The birth of Jesus Christ
We've followed the journey of the magi to Jerusalem, where they presented themselves to Herod and enquired about the Judean king. Now let's look at the actual birth of the Lord Jesus Christ.
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.
(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
The word taxed is the word enrolled - this was a nationwide census, and for this particular census everyone had to return to their home towns and villages. Remember, there were no such things as computers back then, so the census had to be conducted with the resources the Roman government had at its disposal.
And all went to be taxed [enrolled], every one into his own city.
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
To be taxed [enrolled] with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
Joseph was from Bethlehem, so that's where they went. Mary was heavily pregnant during this trip from Galilee in northern Israel down to Bethlehem. Not long after they arrived, Mary gave birth.
Now we need to stop and think for a few moments. The world teaches that Jesus Christ was born on december 25th. If that were true, then we have some major problems, and not just with biblical accuracy, but with astronomy and common sense. This is Israel we're talking about, and it gets cold there in winter. It snows in Israel in winter. There was no public transport. The mountains were infested with armed bandits and wild animals. Stop and ask yourself a question. Would the Roman government have demanded old folks, pregnant women and young children travel in winter?
I've done some hill walking in Scotland in winter. The weather is unpredictable, and getting caught out on the hills at night can kill you. The Romans calling for such nationwide travel in Israel in winter would have been madness. Even common sense tells you something isn't right with the logic that this is december. If the weather closed in and winter storms hit, people would die without shelter. No one in their right mind would organise such a census in the middle of winter, and had the Romans done so there would have been riots. Bear this in mind, because we'll come back to it. Anyway, Mary made it to Bethlehem where she had her baby.
And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
The word tells us that there was no room at the Inn. One thing to note here is what the word does not say. It does not say Joseph and Mary were poor and couldn't afford a room. It says there were no vacancies. The whole country was on the move. All the bed and breakfasts and all the hotels were full, that's all. There was no room. That's what it says, that's what it means. All we have to do is read what's written.
Another thing, this wasn't a smelly old barn full of cows and sheep with cold wind rattling through the stalls. It wasn't winter. The cattle and sheep would have been out grazing on the hillsides. These stables would have been comfortable, warm, clean and dry. Joseph and Mary were simply camping out for a night or two until a room became available. What a wonderful family thing to do. They would have rolled out their blankets in a warm and dry part of the stables, and enjoyed quiet family time together.
So there they are, camped down in Bethlehem, and Mary gives birth to her son. This wasn't a palace, it was a stable. And yet this is where God's Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, the king of the Judeans, the redeemer of all mankind was born. That speaks volumes to those with ears to hear.
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
If this were winter, the shepherds would not have been out in the country with their sheep. It's too cold and dangerous for shepherds to be out in the country with their sheep during the winter, especially at night. One doesn't have to be intelligent to understand this, but one does have to not be religious. This isn't winter, this is autumn. The weather is warm, and the conditions for travelling and camping outdoors are perfect. This is not december.
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
That must have woken the shepherds up.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
Interesting point here. Does it say the angels were singing? No, it doesn't. It says they were saying. Saying something and singing something are two totally different things. It's intriguing to note that there is not one record anywhere in the bible that records angels singing. Nothing against singing, but let's keep things accurate in our minds.
And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.
And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.
And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.
To quickly recap - Joseph and Mary were camping in the stables behind the Inn because all the rooms were full. Mary gave birth and a short time later the shepherds showed up. Can you see any wise men here? Any cows lowing? Drummer boys? Fat men in sleighs handing out presents? Reindeer? And why no mention of the wise men, the magi? Simple, they hadn't arrived yet. They were still in Persia watching the stars. How do we know this? Check the following in Matthew carefully.
Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men [the magi], enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.
When Herod heard this news about a new king, he sat down with the magi and enquired diligently when the star appeared. The magi would have gone into great detail. They would have told Herod all about the triple conjunction of Jupiter and Regulus sandwiched between a double conjunction of Jupiter and Venus in Leo, as well as the timings of the conjunctions. After hearing them, Herod himself was convinced the Christ had been born and he set about making plans to have him murdered.
To everyone else on earth, they would have seen nothing unusual at all in the night skies. Most folks today can't even tell the difference between a star and a planet. How many people today know which star is regulus and which of those shiny thingies are the planets Jupiter and Venus? What chance would anyone today have of noticing a triple conjunction in a constellation? No one in Jerusalem had seen his announcement in the stars because they didn't know how to read them. So his star wasn't a blazing comet streaking across the sky and zooming down to Bethlehem then, was it? What a load of ignorant religious horseshit that is.
And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.
When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.
When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.
These are amazing verses. First of all, in the bible, planets are called stars, not planets, and are often referred to as wandering stars because of the way they seem to wander around the night skies among the other stars. The prime mover in the heavens the magi had been watching was Jupiter. There was a conjunction between Jupiter and Venus, then the triple conjunction of Jupiter and Regulus, then the second conjunction of Jupiter and Venus, and finally the massing of the planets Jupiter, Venus, Mars and Mercury, and all in the constellation Leo. So Jupiter has to be the main contender for the star referenced in Matthew 2:9.
The words stood over are interesting in this regards too. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west. At midday the sun reaches its zenith, its highest point in the sky before starting to go down again. It goes up in the morning, reaches the highest point at midday and then goes down towards the west where it sets. Well, so do stars and planets. They all do this because of the spin of the earth. This standing refers to this highest point on the meridian that Jupiter reached that night, its zenith, before it began to set towards the west.
Understanding that, you're going to love this next bit. In the northern hemisphere, the sun is south at its highest point. In the southern hemisphere, the sun is north at its highest point. It is only directly on the equator that the sun is directly over your head at midday. On that particular night, Jupiter was due south of the magi when it reached the highest point on the meridian. Any ideas where Bethlehem is from Jerusalem? It is about six miles due south. That night the magi were travelling exactly due south from Jerusalem on the way to Bethlehem when Jupiter, the star they'd been watching for years, rose from the east until it reached its highest point on the meridian directly above Bethlehem just as they were arriving. It rose in the night sky until it reached its zenith and stood directly above Bethlehem. How is that for breathtaking biblical accuracy? Can you imagine how the magi must have felt that night, sitting on their camels on the hills surrounding Bethlehem with Jupiter right there above the town, knowing the Christ was down there somewhere?
And what must the neighbours have thought when this royal Persian caravan arrived? Can you imagine the neighbours?
'Hey JOHN! Get your ass out of bed! Come and see this!'
'What is it hun?'
*slowly peeks through the curtains*
'Who are they?'
'Dunno, but they have the SAS surrounding the village.'
'They look like Persian magi. Hey, they're knocking at Joseph and Mary's door!'
'I always knew that family would come to no good.'
'Holy shit, is that a chest of gold?'
'LOOK! The magi are bowing to Mary's boy!'
'Quick! Phone the Smiths!'
And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.
These were fabulous gifts from the Persian king to the newborn Judean king. Can you imagine how much wealth was there? This money set Joseph and Mary up for life. Where do we get the idea from that Joseph and Mary were poor? Joseph was not a poor carpenter, he was a very wealthy one.
There are three very important words to notice here - the words house and young child. House means just that, a house, a place where folks live, a dwelling place. This is a house, not a stable, that's the point. Young child is also accurate. It says young child, not baby. This is a young child and they were in a house. Got that? Good. This is not a stable and this is not a baby. The Greek word for baby is a totally different word to the one used here for a young child. And another thing, can you see any shepherds here? Nope. Any cows mooing? Nope. Not surprising really, as you don't usually find cows in someone's house.
And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.
God, by revelation, told the magi not to go back to Jerusalem. Herod was waiting to hear from them, remember? God gave them other directions and they obeyed. The magi were not afraid of Herod and they were not running away. They were being courageous by obeying God. It takes courage to believe the word.
And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.
Herod had already made up his mind to have the child murdered. Good job Joseph didn't argue with God. And by the way, Joseph fleeing to Egypt wasn't a reaction to fear either. He was doing what God told him to do, just like the magi did. If God had told Joseph to go to Jerusalem and present the child to Herod, that is what he would have done. Obeying God has nothing to do with being afraid, it has everything to do with having the courage to do what is right.
When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt:
He didn't hang around either. He left that night - packed the suitcases, slung them over the mules and off they went down the road to Egypt. When God says move, you move.
Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men.
Herod was severely pissed off when he found out the magi had legged it back to Persia. Do you remember he had asked the magi diligently about the star and the timings? He knew precisely what times the conjunctions had occurred. If Jesus Christ had just been born that night, why did Herod murder all the children two years old and under? Why not just kill all the babies? Jesus wasn't a baby, that's why. He was a young child. In fact, he was over a year old. He was a toddler and would have been speaking his first words. It makes sense now that Herod murdered all the toddlers. He gave himself a few months though, just to be on the safe side.
One other point while we're here. You often hear the question, why didn't God protect all the other children in Bethlehem? The reason all those other parents didn't hear God was because they weren't listening. God would have been quite happy to see all the toddlers saved, but if people aren't listening, there isn't anything he can do. This visit by the magi was most likely in late december, so folks were probably too busy singing stupid carols around their crappy christmas trees and wrapping presents to hear anything from God.
Incidentally, we can answer a question here that perhaps you hadn't thought to ask. How did the wise men find the right house when they arrived in Bethlehem? Remember the shepherds a year earlier?
And when they [the shepherds] had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.
And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
What had the angel told them? That the Christ had been born. The shepherds visited the family in the stable and then told everyone about it. Gossip travelled fast in those days just as it does today. So when the magi caravan turned up asking where the Christ had been born everyone knew which house to point at.
One final thing we will consider regarding Jesus Christ's birth was his actual birth date. First, let's summarise the astronomical events occurring in the night skies over Israel around the time of Christ's birth.
August 12, 3 BC Jupiter and Venus in conjunction in Leo.
September 14, 3 BC Jupiter and Regulus in conjunction in Leo.
February 17, 2 BC Jupiter and Regulus in conjunction in Leo.
May 8, 2 BC Jupiter and Regulus in conjunction in Leo.
June 17, 2 BC Jupiter and Venus in conjunction in Leo.
August 27, 2 BC Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, and Venus all mass in Leo, with Jupiter and Mars in conjunction.
Remember all that? Good now let's go to the book of Revelation.
And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:
And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.
There is much more to this than we have time to get into right now so I'm just going to touch on the highlights. The woman refers to the constellation Virgo, so this particular astronomical event appeared in Virgo. Clothed with the sun simply means that the sun was in the constellation of Virgo. The sun goes through all twelve constellations once per year, so it is only in Virgo for approximately one month every year. And guess what? It isn't december!
You can't see stars when the sun has risen, so stars are only visible together with the sun for a very short period of time, either early in the morning at dawn, or late in the evening at dusk. This event would only have been visible at either daybreak or nightfall, and it occurred during the time the sun was in Virgo in 3 BC.
Revelation also gives us further information. It tells us that the moon was visible under her feet. This phenomenon of the sun being visible in the stars of Virgo with the moon under her feet only occurred once in 3 BC in Palestine. Using astronomical data we can narrow down the time of the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ to September 11th 3BC, between sunset at 6.18 pm and moonset at 7.39 pm Palestine time. Jesus Christ was born between 6.18 PM and 7.39 PM on September 11th 3BC.
Chapter 33 - Christmas and the Way of Life