We had Christmas yesterday…. sure it was only the 23rd of December, but at our home in North Minneapolis for my wife and our 3 kids, 2 dogs, and one cat…. it was Christmas Day. I was caught off guard for a moment to hear the news this morning talking about the weather report for Santa – then I remembered, the rest of the world has Christmas tomorrow… (and we will too, with my in-laws)
I was raised knowing the day was wrong, everyone knew there is no way shepherds would keep their flocks in fields at night in December, (you do that in the spring when the ewes are lambing) and yet it didn’t really matter. We were not celebrating the day, but the event; God took on flesh like us – so he could show us the way and give us his life.
But it makes you wonder – since the date we celebrate is based on mid-winter pagan myths, is there reason to believe the rest of the story?
Before opening gifts yesterday, we read these verses from Luke…..
Luke 1 – 5THERE was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia:
Luke 2 –1And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. 2(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) 3And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
Luke 3 – 1Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene, 2Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.
These are not the typical CHRISTMAS STORY verses, but to me they are immensely important.
Count the Historical references….
AT THE TIME OF THE BIRTH
1. Herod King of Judea
2. Cesar Augustus Emperor of Rome
3. Cyrenius was governor of Syria
ABOUT 30 YEARS LATER WHEN THE MINISTRY OF JOHN AND JESUS BEGAN
4. fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar
5. Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea
6.Herod being tetrarch of Galilee
7. Herod’s brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis
8. Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene
9. Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests,
All of the above references have shown themselves to be TRUE – by outside historical verification. Archeology, Jewish and Roman records all support the historicity of this list of rulers. Why is this important? Some “biblical” scholars say the Gospels were written not at the time they claim, but 100’s of years later by a Church trying to create MYTH to support their existence.
But think about it, is it possible a group of persecuted religious people, without access to both Roman and Jewish records, without internet access, could get all the names and years right? This was a time when rulers changed positions frequently, yet it all aligns.
The point I made to my kids is this, some days it IS hard to believe God became flesh and dwelt among us. But when I remember the bible is accurate on little things (like who was tetrarch of Abilene, in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar) I find it much easier to trust it in the main points. Myths do not usually work to be historically accurate. This does not replace my faith , but only make it stronger.
Have yourself a Merry Christmas!