Shavuot for Gentiles?
Christians celebrate Christmas; Jews Shavuot; Both celebrate one of the same paradigm shifts. In our last post, we stated that Christ’s birth was likely on Shavuot, 2 BC. While most Jews don’t celebrate Christ’s birth, they do celebrate Shavuot. So, if Christ was indeed born on Shavuot, which would be in June; how do we get Christmas in December? I thought we should at least address this conundrum since we were dealing with the paradigm shifts correlated with the Jewish feast Shavuot. June vs. December. That’s not a small difference to overcome regarding the timing of the birth of Christ. Why did we get it so wrong? Is it wrong? Can both be true?
As usual, this is not a simple answer, and yet, it really is. But to make it simple we must tease apart some of our traditional thinking. When we see a nativity scene, what do we see? Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus, of course. But there are also shepherds, likely an angel or two, and let’s not forget the animals. Is something missing? Oh yes, the wise men, the Magi. Wise men? Surely, we need the wise men, don’t we? After all, they are mentioned in the Bible at the time of Christ’s birth. Let’s look at that more closely. There is a time gap we must take into account. How much time? About six months. Hey, isn’t that the gap we mentioned earlier: June vs December? That must be a significant point, right? Let’s explore.
So, if Christ was born in June, does that mean the wise men didn’t come on the scene until December? Is that really consistent with scripture? Well, scripture does state the wise men came after Jesus was born (Mt 2:1) to a house (Mt 2:11) where the child (Mt 2:11) lived with Mary his mother. It would seem Jesus was about six months old at this time. If true, that would explain the time gap and it does seem consistent with this passage in Matthew. It also seems consistent with Herod’s insane decree to kill all males in Bethlehem from two years and younger (Mt 2:16). If the wise men had come when Jesus was an infant, then he would not need such a decree. Yet, the wise men, when they met with Herod (Mt 2:1-2) knew of the sign of the star, but not if it represented his conception or birth. Since the wise men didn’t report back to Herod (Mt 2:12), Herod didn’t get an answer to this question.
We now know, based upon the work Rick Larson did, Christ’s conception occurred in September, 3 BC. The wise men told Herod when they first saw the star (Mt 2:2). If it has been representing his birth, this would mean the child was nearly one and a half years old. Therefore, to make sure, Herod used a cutoff of two years.
So, what does this have to do with Christmas? Well, what did the Magi (wise men) bring with them for the child Jesus? Presents: gold, frankincense, and myrrh (Mt 2:11). According to the work Larsson did, this visit of the Magi occurred on December 25th of 2 BC. Isn’t that apropos? Now, there are those who state that Christmas was made in December to take the place of the pagan festival Saturnalia. And that would be true. This festival was around the winter solstice (the shortest day of the year). Yet, isn’t it just like God to make something which looked serendipitous to actually be divine intervention on his part?
I find this so interesting, and very characteristic of God. Christ’s birth was definitely a paradigm shift and he used Shavuot, the paradigm shift festival, to bring it to fruition. Yet, he also knew Christians would one day in the future celebrate his birth in December and had the Magi to present their gifts to the Christ child at this time. Who else could have planned such a dual fulfillment? Then, his birth on Shavuot set the stage for the ultimate inclusion event. What is that event? We’ll discuss that next time.
I hope this helps you to see we serve a wonderful, awesome, God. He pays such attention to detail. Always remember, you’re part of the detail to which he pays attention. Trust him. You will never regret it.