Have you ever wondered where and when the season of Advent started? Reformed Theological Seminary history professor, Ryan Reeves, puts together some really helpful videos on church history related topics, and the following 5-minute video introducing Advent is really good.
My only quibble with the video is professor Reeves’ statement that “no one, by the way, believed that Jesus was actually born on December 25,” at the the 1:20 mark in the video. Actually, there was quite a bit of speculation in the early church as to the correct date of Jesus’ birth, as I learned in researching an early Veracity post on the topic. In the early 200s, roughly 150 years before the Western church officially designated December 25, as the celebration feast for Jesus’ birth, the church father Hippolytus calculated December 25 as the correct date for Christ’s birth, from his Commentary on Daniel (Reeves is primarily an historian of the Reformation, and not the early church, so I will give him a pass). But Reeves’ larger point stands, centuries later, that we simply do not know when Jesus’ birthdate was with any firm degree of certainty, once you examine the Bible, and other arguments made by other commentators.
The celebration of Advent is not contingent on the exact date of Christmas. Rather, it is about encouraging the community of believers to dedicate some time to spiritually prepare for the coming of the Christ. Syncing the birth of Jesus with one of the shortest days of the year has great symbolic importance, in that as the days just begin to get longer (in the Northern Hemisphere, at least, where Christianity grew the most in the early centuries), it corresponds to the idea that Jesus is the light that has come into the world, and thus overturning the darkness of the present age.
Come, Lord Jesus!
December 26th, 2019 at 9:09 pm
There is an interesting case to be made that Jesus was born in September (not December), by Dr. Michael Heiser. I could be persuaded by this view. In particular, Dr. Heiser appeals to a rather cogent interpretation of Revelation 12 to support his case.
It probably will not be enough to alter the Christian calendar. But from an apologetics perspective, Heiser’s case makes very good sense.