Jesus was born in the year 1 A.D. – Your calendar says it has been 2,016 years since Jesus was born. However, Jesus was probably born 3-7 years before the selected year of 1 A.D. The Gregorian calendar was set by intelligent men roughly 1,500 years after the event. They made an educated guess using all available data back then, but some of it was wrong. For example, it is believed now that King Herod died around 4-1 B.C. and the Bible is clear that Jesus was born during the reign of King Herod. So Jesus had to be born before 1 B.C.
Mary went into labor upon entering Bethlehem – This makes for a great scene in movies as Joseph frantically looks for a shelter that can substitute as a labor and delivery room. However, the Bible never says this happened. Luke tells us, “So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered.” The phrase “while they were there” could mean “once they arrived at Bethlehem” or it could mean “after a month.” We simply don’t know.
Mary and Joseph were denied occupancy by the innkeeper – The Bible never mentions an innkeeper in the account of Jesus’ birth. It just mentions an inn and the inn is probably a relative’s house. Luke uses the word “katalyma” which is usually translated: lodging place or guest chamber. We know Mary and Joseph were poor so they probably were looking to stay at a relative’s house in Bethlehem (after all, Joseph was from the house of David). Hypothetically, Mary and Joseph were told that there was no room in his cousin Ezra’s house because Uncle Eli showed up first. Therefore, they were offered a place in the stable instead.
Jesus was born on Dec. 25th – The Bible never tells us when Jesus’ birthday was. It was Pope Julius who selected the date roughly 300 years after his birth. No one knows when the actual day is, but we can get a few clues from Scripture. For one thing, Caesar Augustus issued a decree. He would probably not require his subjects to travel for a census after September. Winters in Judea can get pretty cold, complete with snow, so it is unlikely the shepherds were watching their flocks on the night of December 25th. Jesus was probably born in late spring, during the summer, or in early autumn when people would be prone to travel and shepherds would be out at night.
There were three wise men – The Bible never tells how many wise men showed up. It only gives us a hint by using words like “men, them, and we.” We get the number three from the three different gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh that were presented.
The wise men were present on the night of Jesus’ birth – Scripture implies something much different. We are told by Matthew the wise men arrived in Bethlehem and went into the house where Mary and the young child were. The Greek word for young child, “paidion” can be translated “infant” but more often is correctly translated “toddler” or “young child.”
The star of Bethlehem was at least ten times larger than a regular star – Most likely, the star was not an astronomical wonder observed by all who looked up into the night sky. When the Magi appeared in Jerusalem, Herod and the rest of the court did not know about the astrological event (Matthew 2:2-3). Many scholars believe the star was a conjunction of multiple stars or planets, which was interpreted by the wise men to signify the birth of a king.
There was a little drummer boy – Great story, even better song. But the truth is, the Bible does not ever mention a little drummer boy. Besides, what mother would approve of a young boy banging on drums around her sleeping infant?
Jesus did not cry – The song “Away in a Manger” says that Jesus did not cry. It makes for a charming rhyme, but it is wholly inaccurate. While Mary and Joseph probably would be glad for a few nights rest, I’m confident that Jesus did indeed cry. While fully God, Jesus was also fully human. That means that Baby Jesus did all the things that human babies do — including cry.
The angels sang – The Bible tells us, “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, goodwill toward men!’” According to the Bible, the herald angels spoke, not sang.
So what does all this mean for us? Am I stating that the birth of Jesus was not real? Certainly not. The birth of Jesus is a historical event that is well documented by Scriptures. The elements of the story that God saw fit to record for posterity’s sake are pretty amazing without human embellishment. It is a wonderful account full of spectacular miracles and sacred moments.
To me, the most amazing part of the story is found in Matthew 1:23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” Think about that: “God with us.” Why on earth would God leave heaven and come to live with us as one of us? The Bible answers that question when it says, “For God so loved …” For God so loved me. For God so loved you. For God so loved us. That is the most amazing part of the nativity story, and it is a part that we may never fully understand but we can joyfully celebrate this season.
The angels may not have sung “Glory to God” and there was no little drummer who played for Jesus, but that’s probably because God reserved that honor for you and me — and not just on December 25th, but all year, every year.
About the author: Jeff Redding is a Sales Rep at Brentwood Benson. He has been a worship pastor in both established churches and in new church starts for over twenty-five years. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Music from Samford University and currently serves as the worship leader at Parkers Creek Baptist Church. He lives in Fairview, Tennessee with his wife and three children.