While on Christmas break we learned of billboards that appeared in the Dallas Metroplex, as well as other major cities around the country with the above message.
Provocative signs like these have been an annual Christmas tradition sponsored by the American Atheists. “Everyone knows that the stories we’re told in church aren’t the truth,” said David Silverman, president of American Atheists. “People ignore that fact because they enjoy the community, the friendship, and the traditions that go along with religion.”
Although it might seem we’re a little late to the party, it’s never too late to open the Bible and separate fact from fiction. What does the Scripture say about Christmas and Jesus’ birth?
It might surprise some that the Atheists are partially right. Some of the information taught or implied in churches is incorrect.
The name of Jesus is found 980 times in the Bible. His title “Christ” occurs 554 times. And the name “Christian” is mentioned 3 times (Acts 11:26, 26:28, I Pet 4:16). However, “Christmas” is never mentioned in the Bible. Not once.
The Bible says that “Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king” (Matt 2:1-2). The gospel writer Luke provides more details regarding Jesus’ birth. The trip to Bethlehem by Mary and Joseph. Mary’s delivery in the stable because “there was no room in the inn.” Baby Jesus in the manger. And the angelic announcement of His birth to the Shepherds in the fields, who came to see him (Lk. 2:1-20)
However, nothing is mentioned of the day or month of Jesus’ birth. The highly respected Presbyterian commentator, Albert Barnes, writes, “It is probable from this that our Saviour was born before the 25th of December, or before what we call “Christmas.” The exact time of his birth is unknown; there is no way to ascertain it. By different learned men it has been fixed at each month in the year. Nor is it of consequence to “know” the time; if it were, God would have preserved the record of it. Matters of moment are clearly revealed; those which “he” regards as of no importance are concealed.”
Adam Clarke, the well known Methodist commentator, agrees, citing several sources to suggest that it’s impossible to know the date of Jesus’ birth. “Fabricius gives a catalogue of no less than 136 different opinions concerning the YEAR of Christ’s birth: and as to his birth DAY, that has been placed by Christian sects and learned men in every month in the year.”
The manger scene of the 3 wise men bringing their gifts to Jesus is also incorrect. Fake news. The wise men (we’re not told how many) traveled from the east. It would have been a long journey. By the time they arrived and found Jesus the Bible says he was in a house (Matt 2:11). Furthermore, Joseph was warned by the angel about Herod’s plot to kill the babies and immediately fled to Egypt following the wise men’s visit. However, Luke records that Jesus was presented in the temple following Mary’s days of purification. According to the law of Moses, this would have been 33 days after Jesus’ circumcision on the eighth day. (Lev. 12:1-2). So the wise men appeared on the scene at least 40 days later.
However, the atheists are wrong. It’ not ALL fake news.
The historicity of Jesus of Nazareth is a fact. Over 30 years ago Lee Strobel, the former legal affairs journalist for the Chicago Tribune, sought to disprove Christianity by applying his investigative techniques he learned at Yale Law School. After extensive research, Strobel, to his chagrin, determined that claims of Christianity are valid. Jesus is not “fake news,” but Good News.
Strobel’s findings were condensed into the best selling book, The Case for Christ, which was made into a 2017 movie. In one interview regarding his work Strobel said, “As a journalist, I’ve learned to investigate the reliability of documents. And when you look at the documents that make up the New Testament of the Bible, they meet the tests of reliability that historians use.”
Secular writers, like the Roman author and lawyer Pliny the Younger and the Jewish writer Flavius Josephus, who lived in the first century affirm the facts of Jesus’ life, ministry and death on the cross.
The apostles, preachers and Gospel writers had nothing to gain by spreading fake news about Jesus. In fact, they had everything to lose. Ask Stephen who was the first Christian martyr (Acts 7). Ask James who was killed by Herod (Acts 12). Ask Saul of Tarsus, a fierce persecutor of Christians, who was converted from Judaism, but became an ardent proclaimer of Christ and suffered extreme persecution as a result of his faith (2 Cor 11: 22-29). Secular history says all the apostles, except for John, died a violent death for their faith in Jesus.
The over 300 fulfilled Old Testament prophecies, the miraculous works, and His resurrection from the dead, all provide evidence that His claims were true. Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ, the Son of God. That’s not fake news!
While we celebrate Jesus’ birth, not just in December, but in every month of the year, let’s separate fact from fiction. Fake news from the Good News. And truth from tradition. May we honor Him by following the teaching of His Word, being conformed to His image, and worshipping as He authorized every first day of the week.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman