Many of us are persuaded that the real birthday of Jesus occurred during the Feast of Tabernacles.
Jesus was not born on December 25th. That is the date of a pagan festival merged with Christianity under Constantine. However, there is overwhelming evidence that he was actually born during the Feast of Tabernacles.
Coming of Elijah
Zacharias was ministering in the Temple when an angel told him he would have a son. He belonged to the order of Abijah (Luke 1:5); which was eighth in line according to the Jewish time-table for priests ministering in the Temple (1 Chronicles 24:10). That means he would have been ministering in the Temple in June, when it was officially the turn of Abijah. If his wife therefore conceived in June, John the Baptist would have been born around March the next year, during the Passover.
It is customary to reserve a special cup of wine for Elijah during the Passover meal, in expectation that he would some day come for the feast. So it makes sense for John the Baptist to be born during the Passover. The angel told Zacharias his son would come “in the spirit and power of Elijah” (Luke 1:17); and Jesus confirms that John is, indeed, the expected Elijah (Matthew 17:12-13).
Birth of the Messiah
If John the Baptist was born during the Passover, then Jesus must have been born during the Feast of Tabernacles. There are six months between both feasts, and we are told Mary became pregnant six months after Elizabeth (Luke 1:26-27/36).
Think about it. Does it not make perfect sense that “the light of the world” should be born during the “festival of lights;” when lamps illuminate the entire city of Jerusalem? That is the Feast of Tabernacles. It is also known as “the season of our joy,” so it makes sense for the angel to bring the “good tidings of great joy” of Jesus’ birth during this joyful season (Luke 2:10-11). The angel also said the good news would be for “all people.” Quite appropriately, the Feast of Tabernacles is the only Jewish festival where non-Jews are required to participate (Zechariah 14:16-19). Accordingly, it is also known as “the festival of the nations.”
All the men of Israel are required to come to Jerusalem to observe the Feast of Tabernacles (Deuteronomy 16:16). This means Jerusalem becomes filled up with visitors during the festival, and they spill over into the surrounding regions, including Bethlehem which is only about five miles away. As a result, there is likely to be a shortage of guest-houses in Bethlehem, accounting for the difficulty of Mary and Joseph in finding suitable accommodation.
Tabernacle of God
In writing about the incarnation of Jesus, John employs the terminology of tabernacles. He says the Word became flesh and “tabernacled” among us (John 1:14). Indeed, one of Jesus’ spiritual names is Emmanuel; meaning “God with us” (Matthew 1:22-23). It therefore makes sense that God would choose to come down to earth in the person of Jesus Christ to tabernacle with men during the Feast of Tabernacles.
It is also quite conceivable that the wise men from the east were Jewish rabbis, anticipating the coming of the Messiah according to Daniel’s prophecy (Daniel 9:24). At the time of Jesus’ birth, the largest Jewish population was not in Palestine but in Babylon, where they had been carried into exile by Nebuchadnezzar. Babylon is east of Palestine; and a “magi” or wise man is another expression for a “rabbi.” Daniel, for example, was regarded as one of the magi of his time (Daniel 4:9).
Star of Bethlehem
During the seven-days of the Feast of Tabernacles, Jewish families live in booths built with branches of trees. It is customary to leave a hole in the roof so as to be able to look at the stars at night. Therefore, the Feast of Tabernacles is the perfect time for Jewish magi east of Palestine to notice the appearance of the star of Bethlehem.
That is why it is important to note that the magi did not get to Bethlehem at the time of Jesus’ birth, as is erroneously portrayed on Christmas cards. By the time they arrived, Jesus was already a young child (Matthew 2:9). It must have taken them up to two years to get there, which is why, in the bid to kill Jesus, Herod killed all the children in Bethlehem from two years old and under (Matthew 2:16).
From 3rd to 10th of October, 2009, we shall be celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles. Many of us are persuaded that the real birthday of Jesus occurred during the Feast of Tabernacles. That is why I am wishing everyone in this coming joyful season: “Merry Christmas and Happy Transfiguration.”