It is very common for me to hear questions about the dating of Easter but this year, for the first time, I have had people ask me about the date of Christmas, how it came about, and is it the real date of Christ’s birth. The Catholic Encyclopaedia has a good article on the date and the calendar, which is the real focus of dating Christmas. Christ’s birth is one of only three births celebrated in the Orthodox church – the other two are Mary and John the Baptist. Back in the day Christmas and Epiphany were actually celebrated together, and there are remnants of this in some of the rubrics of the services. The Annunciation is exactly 9 months before Christmas on the calendar. Only Christ is perfect, so the conceptions of John and Mary fall 9 months and 1 day from their births.
S.H. Hooke, in his Middle Eastern Mythology (a must-have for a clergyman’s library, if you ask me) describes Luke’s account of the birth of Christ:
Luke has invested the historical circumstance with a mythological colouring which is intended to bring into strong relief the divine purpose directing the events, and to show that the pattern of divine activity in redemption, outlined in the Old Testament in those cult myths which we have been studying, has now reached its climax. The canticles which Luke has either composed or borrowed from the psalmody of the early Church are wholly Old Testament in spirit and expression, and are intended to glorify the God of Israel who has thus guided the course of world-history to its consummation. It is noteworthy that in his two chapters devoted to the circumstances attending the birth of Jesus, Luke does not once declare that this or that event was the fulfilment of some particular prophecy; yet he invests his whole narrative in these two chapters with an Old Testament colouring which is the result of a supreme art. (pages 168-169).