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Beliefs have Consequesces, Commentary #21
© 1999 Dorothy A. Miller
“Christmas Quiz”

      As you scurry around to do your last minute Christmas shopping, finish decorating and getting a few more cards into the mail, I decided to complicate your life just a little bit more by giving you a short Christmas Quiz. There are only seven questions and one hard bonus question.  Although most of the questions involve familiar parts of the Christmas story, you may end discovering some surprising new insights.
                                                        Quiz
The answers are printed below the quiz but try not to look until you have given your responses.   Note carefully the wording of each question!

    1. According to the Bible, what day of the year was Jesus born?                         

    2. True or False?              Is it correct that Jesus was born in a manger?

    3. True or False?              When a whole multitude of angels appeared to shepherds near Bethlehem, they sang “Glory to God in the Highest and on earth peace and good will toward men.”

    4. True or False?             We often see on Christmas cards the picture of a lamb and a lion lying down together to depict the peace Jesus would bring.  It says in the Bible specifically that these two animals would one day be friends or lie down together. 

    5. True or False?              Besides the shepherds who went to see Jesus just after He was born, some Wise Men came to see Jesus in the stable.

    6. How many Wise Men came to see Jesus?                                                   

    7. Other than Mary and Joseph, who does the Bible say was the first person that recognized the baby Jesus as more than an ordinary baby,  indeed the promised one sent from God?                                                      

    8. Bonus question. In Luke chapter one, Zacharias did not believe in the angel’s prophetic message that he and Elizabeth’s prayers would be answered and his barren wife would have a son whom we later discover was John the Baptist. The question is this.  For his unbelief, was Zacharias struck deaf , dumb, or deaf and dumb?

Answers:

    1. According to the Bible, what day of the year was Jesus born?
    A: The Bible does not say. 

     History shows that in 310+ A.D., when Constantine merged the pagan and Christian worlds, he decreed the birth of Christ to be celebrated on December 25th.  Dec 25 th was the day celebrated already for the birthday of Janus the sun god.   On this day, celebrants cut down evergreen trees and brought them to their homes and put candles on them to honor Janus.
     We do have a guess on the time of Jesus’ birth based on deductions from the Bible.  Luke 1:5 “There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth.”  Each of the 24 courses for Temple service was two weeks long.  Zacharias would have had to come to Jerusalem from Hebron to officiate in the Temple for those two weeks of the course of Abia which began June 1st.  Then allow one week for Zacharias to travel the forty miles back home to Heron. 
     If Elizabeth conceived within that month, she would have been in her sixth month of pregnancy on the week of December 25 when Mary visited her just after she had conceived of God.  Luke 1:36 “And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.”
     The conjecture here is that Elizabeth conceived within the first month that Zacharias returned.  We do not know this, but it would be so like God use the pagan time appointed for Jesus’ birth for His own purposes.  That means that Mary may actually have conceived Jesus by the Holy Sprit on the December 25th date.
     Also evidence leads to the birth of Jesus in the fall.  For instance the shepherds being in the fields with their sheep in that location occurred in the fall.   Note a perfect gestation period of nine months from Dec 25th  would have had Jesus born on Rosh Hashanah.  This is the day celebrated in Judaism as the creation, (birth) of Adam.  How fitting it would be if the “last Adam” who brought us salvation, was created the same day of the years as the first one who failed us!

    2. True or False?             Is it correct that Jesus was born in a mange
    A: False....Born in a stable, laid in a manger.

     A manger is a food trough, ideal for lining with straw and using as a crib but certainly not spacious enough for giving birth.  Luke 2:27 “...they laid him in a manger.”

    3. True or False?             When a whole multitude of angels appeared to shepherds near Bethlehem, they sang “Glory to God in the Highest and on earth peace and good will toward men.”
    A: False...

     Even though most the lyrics of familiar Christmas carols say “Hark the Herald angels sing,”...the “singing” part it is not found in the Bible. Luke 2:1314 The only mention of the angels at Jesus birth actually says “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”  The word in Greek translated saying here appears 1280 times in the NT.  Never is it translated “sing” in English.
     The closest anywhere in the Bible that indicates angels might sing is found in Job 38:7 and that works if  “the morning stars” are a reference to angels.  “When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy.”

    4. True or False?             We often see on Christmas cards the picture of a lamb and a lion lying down together to depict the peace Jesus would bring.  This description, of these  two animals one day being friends and lying down together actually comes from the Bible.
    A: False...

     Although lots of songs mention the lion and lamb lying down together, it does not say anywhere specifically that the lion and lamb will lie down together.  It could be said to be inferred since one day past enemies, predators and victims of the animal kingdom, will be friends.
     Isaiah 65:25  “The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent's meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the LORD.”
     Isaiah 11:67 “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. 7 And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

    5. True or False?             Besides the shepherds who went to see Jesus just after He was born, Wise Men come to see Jesus in the stable.
    A: False...

     The Wise Men came to a “house” to see Jesus, perhaps as late as a year of two after his birth.  The house part is mentioned in Matthew and the inference of years passing is indicated by the decree of Herod to kill all children in Bethlehem and the coasts two years old and under.
     Matthew 2:11 “And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.”
     Matthew 2:16 “Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men.”

    6.  How many Wise Men came to see Jesus?
    A: The Bible does not say.

     It was probably many since they carried great wealth with them and for safety it was customary to travel in large caravans.  It is thought that because they presented three gifts to Jesus that folklore came to say that there were only three Wise Men.  These three are even named in tradition, but not in the Bible.

    7. Other than Mary and Joseph, who does the Bible say was the first person that recognized the baby Jesus as more than an ordinary baby,  indeed the promised Savior sent from God?
    A: John the Baptist while still in the womb of Elizabeth.

     John was filled with the Holy Spirit while in the womb.  Luke 1:15 “For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb.”
     Elizabeth recognized Jesus as the Savior because of her in-the-womb baby John’s reaction to the presence of the just conceived child in Many’s womb.   (Certainly settles the personhood of even newly conceived children in the womb!)
     Luke 1:4044 “And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth. 41 And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: 42 And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. 43 And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.”

    8. Bonus question. In Luke chapter one, Zacharias did not believe in the angel Gabriel’s prophetic message that he and Elizabeth’s prayers would be answered and his barren wife would have a son whom we later discover was John the Baptist. The question is this.  For his unbelief, was Zacharias struck deaf , dumb, or?
    A:  (I believe) it was deaf and dumb

     Luke 1:19-20 “And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings. 20 And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.”
     Luke 1:62-64 “And they made signs to his father, how he would have him called. 63 And he asked for a writing table, and wrote, saying, His name is John. And they marvelled all. 64  And his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue loosed, and he spake, and praised God.”  Why would yo have to sign to a person who was only dumb?

     Several lessons can be learned from the surprising answers to this Christmas Quiz. 
1.     We should make sure our beliefs are based on the Word of God not forklore, tradition, Christmas cards or songs we sing. 
2.     Any time we believe something that is wrong we inevitably will miss the value of the truth that does exist.

CHALLENGE:

A good exercise here will be to go back over each of the 8 questions and see if on each question you can answer the short but strategic question I often ask my students which is, “So?”   Otherwise, try to make the knowledge gained here more that information in your mind.  In each case how can the information draw you closer to God, affect your walk with the Lord make you a more effective witness to the glory of God and saving power of Jesus? ...
                                                            Beliefs Have Consequences!
                    
Next commentary “Greater Than God’s Name”
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