A couple of years ago, I got into a heated discussion with a stranger in the check-out line at Target. She had heard me mention to the cashier that my late-December birthday was “the same as Jesus.” As it turned out, it was the cashiers birthday, too. Everyone but the stranger was smiling and sharing in a moment of holiday cheer.
“Excuse me,” she said. “Christmas isn’t on the date you’re talking about. Its on the 25th.” Obviously she had forgotten that it is rude to insert oneself into another’s conversation and had failed to noticed that I was dressed in my finest ‘religious professional’ garb.
“Really,” I remarked.
“Yes.” She spat back. “Christmas – December 25th – is the day that we celebrate Jesus’ birthday. Although most people understand that he wasn’t actually born then.”
I gave her a puzzled look. Nothing she had said so far was wrong. Scholars do actually think that Jesus was more likely born in the Spring, during lambing season in Judea when stables are empty at night and shepherds abide in fields. But I wanted to see how far she’d take it.
She continued. “No one really knows when Jesus was born, however. Early Christians just set the date arbitrarily to coincide with ancient pagan feasts.”
I was impressed, this woman, though rude, really knew her stuff. But, it was time to let her off the hook.
“So, what you’re saying is that no one really knows when Jesus was born?” I wondered aloud.
“But it probably wasn’t on December 25th.”
“So it could have been on my birthday?”
I took my receipt from the smiling cashier and headed for the car.
Merry Christmas, friends.