Today’s article is part of Brother Jerry Valenti’s series on the Life of Jesus.
Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:10-11)
After reading the title of this blog article, you probably have a certain song going through your head right now. Go ahead, don’t hold back on our account. “And heaven and nature sing, and heaven and nature sing…”
Wait, what’s going on here? It’s not December. Shouldn’t we feel silly singing Christmas hymns in the springtime?
The simple response to that is that we should feel free to express the joy that Christ has given us at any time of the year.
Mankind waited for thousands of years for the Son of God to come to earth and enact the plan of salvation. It’s an event that affects every day of our lives and will affect us for eternity. Is it really appropriate to pigeonhole that event into one month out of the year and say that it’s silly to think about it, talk about it, or sing about it at any other time of the year?
However, there is another reason why we shouldn’t be embarrassed to be reflecting on the birth of Christ in the springtime — you see, that’s when He was actually born!
How do we know that? Let’s lay out the case here:
First of all, most Bible scholars agree that Jesus was most likely not born in late December. That time of the year in Bethlehem would be cold and very rainy — it would hardly be conditions that would entice the shepherds to be “abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night” (Luke 2:8).
It would also be highly unlikely that the emperor would call for a census in the winter when people would have a harder time complying with the need to travel to their hometown. Not that the emperor cared about the Jews, but he did want full compliance.
(If he cared about the Jews, he wouldn’t have scheduled the census during the Passover season when all of the inns surrounding Jerusalem would be filled, making it difficult for travelers like Joseph and Mary to find accommodations).
Why do I say the census (and therefore the birth of Christ) occurred during the Passover season? Well, to know that, we have to tap into the additional information we have available to us in the Book of Mormon, which allows us to pinpoint the date a little more precisely (at least more precisely than just saying it wasn’t in December).
If you read the first few chapters of 3 Nephi, it begins with the sign being given about the birth of Christ and then adds that “the Nephites began to reckon their time from this period when the sign was given, or from the coming of Christ” (3 Nephi 2:8). So, each year, the record would report that nine years had passed away since the birth of Christ, ten years had passed away, etc.
In 3 Nephi 8, it is reported that a great destruction occurred “in the thirty and fourth year, in the first month, on the fourth day of the month” (3 Nephi 8:5). This destruction was the sign that Christ had been crucified. In other words, Jesus was crucified 33 years and four days after He was born, meaning that the date He was born and the date He died were within four days of each other.
As is recorded in the Bible, the crucifixion occurred at the time of the year when the Jews observed the Passover. The actual date of Passover varies from year to year (which is why the date of Easter varies) but it has always been observed in the March/April timeframe.
(By the way, this year it begins this coming weekend, on March 27).
Putting all of this together, Jesus was born in either March or April. His date of birth may have even been this week, perhaps even today!
Once again, it’s not vital that we know the exact date — we should be celebrating Christ all year long. However, it’s certainly interesting to have some additional insight into this.
In conclusion, rather than apologizing for writing about the birth of Christ in the springtime, let me instead be the first this year to wish you a joyous celebration of the birth of the Son of God.
A chorus of “Joy to the World,” anyone?
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.