The Christmas Story

The date of Jesus' birth is debated but some use the reference in Luke 1:5 regarding Zechariah who was of the "division of Abijah" and when he served at the temple. If this time can be determined then the approximate time of John's conception can be determined (Luke 1:24) and then Jesus' conception (Luke 1:36) and therefore the approximate time of Jesus' birth. One analysis gives this:
Bible Traditional date Non-traditional dating
John's conception Luke 1:24 October 10, 6 BC Late June
Jesus' conception Six months later - Luke 1:35,36 March 25, 6 BC Late December
Jesus' birth Approximately 9 months later - Luke 1:56,57; 2:7 December 25, 5 BC Late September

The objections laid against the above traditional analysis is that Jesus' conception is not exactly 6 months after John's. Second, Jesus' birth would end up in the cold rainy season of December (Luke 2:8) which is too cold for people (like shepherds) to stand out in the open (Ezra 10:9,13).

If the non-traditional explanation is correct, then December 25 is the conception of Jesus, not the birth.

The sequence of Jesus early life goes like this:
Matthew  Luke
Jesus is born in Bethlehem, in a manger. It may have been a stable or it may have been in a house with an adjoining area meant for animals. The shepherds who watch their flocks at night, out of doors, are alerted by angels that the Savior has been born in the city of David (Bethlehem). 2:7-12
On the eighth day Jesus is taken to nearby Jerusalem. 2:21,22
They immediately return to their home in Nazareth farther north. 2:39
Later, some number of magi, astrologers, come from the east to Jerusalem to seek the new born king. Their search was initiated by their sight of a star when they saw it in the east. Presumably they come to Jerusalem to visit the palace. There, King Herod inquires from Bible scholars about the prophecy of the Messiah's birth and is told that the king would be born in Bethlehem.  2:1-8
The magi are sent to Bethlehem. The star that they had seen at the beginning of their journey again appears and leads them to where the "child" (not infant) is. We are not told in what city the magi find the boy, only that they started towards Bethlehem and the star began to lead them. Likely they find the child in Nazareth, the home town. They find the child in a house, not a stable or inn. They give the child 3 gifts. 2:9-11
Joseph is warned by an angel of Herod's coming attack and the family immediately goes to Egypt. The family stays in Egypt until Herod dies, probably less than a year so that they do not miss a Passover celebration, and then returns to Nazareth. 2:13-23
The child Jesus grows and the family goes to Jerusalem every year for Passover. 2:40,41

What is NOT present in the text:

  1. Jesus was born in a stable.
  2. The magi were kings.
  3. There were three magi.
  4. The magi found an infant.
  5. The magi went to a stable.
  6. The magi found Jesus in Bethlehem.