Historians, theologians, and biblical scholars have debated for years what is fact and what is fiction regarding the birth of Jesus. If Jesus’s birth was so significant and believed to be an anticipated and miraculous birth, why do only two of the gospels, Matthew and Luke, include a birth story, whereas, earlier writings like Paul’s letters and Mark, of the New Testament do not include any details about the birth of Jesus? How can Mary have conceived a virgin birth? Was Jesus really born in a manger on the twenty-fifth day of December? These are just a few questions pondered and argued in the fact or fable discussion concerning the birth of Jesus by Christians and those from other faith traditions.
In a lecture given by Charles Fillmore, Unity co-founder, on December 24, 1911, he states, “Now, as history we know that the birth of Jesus Christ did not occur at this season of the year. There are no records that tell definitely when he was born, not even the year. We are told he was born in either March or April-some time in the spring.” As he continues, he calls students of Truth to reflect instead on the rich symbolism of the season. Marcus Borg and John Crossan, authors of The First Christmas, concur with Fillmore’s assertion and explain that prior to the year 350 Christians all over the world celebrated the birth of Jesus at different times of the year. Some celebrated the birthday of Jesus in March, some in April, some in May, and some in November. Marcus and John state, “Around the year 350 Pope Julius of Rome declared December 25 as the date, thereby, integrating it with a Roman winter solstice festival celebrating the Birth day of the Unconquered Sun.”
Fillmore, Borg, and Crossman agree that the narratives depicting the birth of Jesus, like all biblical text, not only must be viewed through the historical context of the time period, but also be viewed metaphorically, metaphysically, and symbolically. One of Jesus’s favorite methods of teaching was through parable to convey spiritual and moral lessons to the disciples and his followers. The “Good Samaritan” and the “Prodigal Son” are just 2 of the renowned parables reported to be spoken by Jesus. Therefore, it would be natural that the authors of Matthew and Luke would create parabolic birth stories over 60 years after the death of Jesus. The birth narratives of Matthew and Luke differ significantly, however, the symbolism of new life, light against darkness, joy, and hope are themes that can be extracted from the narratives.
The birth of Jesus in an outdoor, meager manger on a cold, bleak, “dark” winter night as told in Luke creates the perfect setting and mood for the birth of a messiah. Additionally, study of this time period reveals that the peasant class, the majority of the population, lived under harsh rule, discrimination, and oppression. During the height of his teaching and preaching days, Jesus brought a new, fresh, hopeful message to the people as he proclaimed, “The Kingdom of God is within” and “I AM the Light of the World”. His message of Truth, joy, hope, and love inspired people to rise above bleak circumstances by seeking their guidance, power, and wisdom from within, and by joining in solidarity with their neighbors to support one another in Love.
Isn’t Jesus’s message relevant and words to live by today? We are going through challenging and dark times. Regularly, we witness corruption, violent mass shootings, a weakening of our 3 branches of government, and acts of racial, religious, gender, and sexual, intolerance. Like the peasants centuries ago, are you waiting for a “messiah”, a new congress, a new president, a new governor, etc., to save you and our country from the darkness? Or are you claiming and realizing your Christ Light within as you take bold, courageous, action to change your life and to be of service to your neighbors. When the majority of the people of this nation stand in solidarity as the Light of the World it is then we will collectively experience a miraculous and holy new birth. For we are the ones we have been waiting for. Bring joy, hope, love, and light to the world. I call you to bring it!!!!