The Birth of Jesus Christ
God's promises are in the Bible. For many many years before
Jesus was born, God promised to send a Savior to save us from our sins. You can
read more about the Old Testament prophecies of the birth of Jesus on our
Christmas in the Bible page.
The Christmas story as it is usually told includes events which occurred over a period of at least 10 months, and maybe as much as 2 years. If you include the escape to Egypt then add a few more years. The events surrounding the birth of Jesus Christ and his early days are presented below in chronological order. To better understand what happened we start the story a few months before Jesus was conceived. (Unless otherwise noted the New International Version of the Bible is used on this page.)
Conception of John the Baptist
In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord's commandments and regulations blamelessly. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years. Once when Zechariah's division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside. Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: "Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous ?to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." Zechariah asked the angel, "How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years." The angel answered, "I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time." Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak. When his time of service was completed, he returned home. After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. "The Lord has done this for me," she said. "In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people." (Luke 1:5-25)
1) This passage is often not included in the story of the birth of Jesus. But if we want to determine the approximate time of year that Jesus was born, then the above passage is important.
2) John the Baptist's father, Zechariah was from the priestly division of Abijah. The schedule which governed the order of priestly service in Jerusalem was delineated in the Old Testament. Relevant passages include 1 Chronicles 24; 2 Chronicles 23:8, 1 Chronicles 9:25; Deuteronomy 16:16. From this we can deduce that the division of Abijah would have been working in the temple in Jerusalem in the second week of the month of Sivan of the Jewish lunar calendar. It appears from the text that the conception took place soon after Zechariah's return home from Jerusalem. So John the Baptist was conceived probably the middle of the month of Sivan (late May - early June on our calendar). If you want to think further on this subject, an in-depth discussion can be found here.
3) Notice these two sentences. "When his time of service was completed, he returned home. After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant." In truth we don't know what amount of time passed between "service was completed" and "returned home". Nor do we know exactly how much time passed between "returned home" and "became pregnant". It seems like it would have been a matter of days. But it is not precisely stated. Since our further estimations as to the time of the birth of Jesus all rest on the assumption that Elizabeth became pregnant within a few days or weeks after Zechariah completed his time of service, we cannot speak with absolute surety regarding the timing of the birth of Jesus. We can only say what seems to be true, based on what we know from the text.