Updated: Feb 3
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
This is the Gospel selection for the fourth Sunday of Advent, Year B. It will be read aloud in church by a priest on Christmas Eve, December 24, 2017. This reading strongly states that Christmas near the end of December (the twelfth month of a modern civil calendar) has absolutely nothing to do with the physical birth of baby Jesus. Therefore, December 25th is a date that the Church created, relative to when Christ is born anew in one of deep devotion to God, with belief that Jesus resurrected from the dead and ascended to God for the purpose of returning in those who strongly have faith.
When we read that the angel Gabriel came to Mary “in the sixth month,” this becomes a solid marker of when conception occurred. The “sixth month” is not June, as Americans know a calendar. The “sixth month” is the month Elul, in the Hebrew calendar. Elul occurs (depending on the year) somewhere between August and September. Simply from knowing when Mary conceived the child that would be named Jesus, we can add nine months and realize: 1.) The birth had nothing to do with December; and 2.) Nine months after the “sixth month” would make the birth occur in “the third month” – Sivan, which is roughly May or June.
Because Mary rushed off to visit Elizabeth (Luke 1:39-45), whose pregnancy occurred when Gabriel appeared to the priest Zacharias, her husband (Luke 1:5-17), we can then assume Gabriel’s visit to Elizabeth took place in the twelfth month, or six months prior to Mary conceiving Jesus. In that case, Elizabeth began to carry the baby to be named John in the Hebrew month Adar (February or March).
The Hebrew calendar makes adjustments for “leap year, such that “A leap year occurs 7 times in the 19-year Metonic cycle.” (Ref.) Because Gabriel told Mary that Elizabeth was six months pregnant (“in the sixth month”) there was no thirteenth month in between. Thus, John would have been born in the ninth month [Kislev], which is roughly in November-December. This means Mary visited Elizabeth three months before John was born (between August and September), when the fetus was developed enough to “leap in the womb.”
Let me veer off course and address the timing of Christmas in late December. It is not a date to recognize Jesus-mass, simply because Jesus was born in the Hebrew month Sivan. We know that by Biblical record – here, in this reading. It is most important to grasp that Gabriel showing up to announce, “Now you are with child,” was not because he (an angel) made that decision. God knows all, from the beginning to the end, and He does not plan for His Son to be born randomly AND especially near the Winter solstice, when the sun is lowest on the horizon (Northern Hemisphere) and the light of day is shortest. Jesus was born as a gift from God, at the time when Moses brought down the First gift from God. [HINT: Pentecost is a most special day for God giving to the world … in Sivan.]. December represents the dark night of the soul in mortals, when they plead earnestly for the LORD to save them. So, Christ-mass is when mortals awaken from their material slumber and “man up” [become Jesus reborn]. That said, I will now continue where I left off.
Now, much issue has been taken in respect of a virgin birth. Little argument seems to rise about Elizabeth – “in her old age” – having become pregnant, “who was said to be barren.” It was news to Zacharias, her husband, who said to Gabriel, “How will I know this for certain? For I am an old man and my wife is advanced in years.” (Luke 1:18) The implication of that protest (which would make Zacharias mute until John was born) was he and Elizabeth had not had sex recently enough to bring about her being pregnant in the normal way. As such, she too had a “miracle” child in her womb. The point is to stop overthinking how God can do anything to people long gone, because that makes one under-think what Scripture is trying to tell you about virgin births.
Adam was a virgin when God pulled Eve out of him.
As an Advent lesson, where all who seek the presence of the Holy Spirit of God are largely lost in that quest, it should be preached that those who sit in church pews (men and women), Sunday after Sunday, are exactly like Elizabeth and Mary. A “Christian” without the gifts of the Holy Spirit, having not yet given birth to their own personal Jesus (to replace their self-ego), is either old and barren or young and a virgin. [This has absolutely nothing to do with any human’s sex organs!] Each Christian-to-be (meaning one who is not yet pregnant with the Son of God inside) must be greeted by Gabriel, who says, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” Gabriel must then also add, “You have found favor with God.”
The LORD is only with those He favors because His favorites are those who He has taken as His wives (regardless of human gender). You might even go as far as to say that God favors those more whose minds are not led by their sex organs – loving sex more than God. One is favored by God by opening one’s heart for the LORD, offering oneself in marriage to that righteous presence, and then being totally subservient to His Will.
You have to be favored before the “miracle” birth of Jesus will come. That miracle is due to the Holy Spirit of God. Thus, Gabriel told Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.” This was the promise when the physical baby Jesus was born; but it is the same for all who will be reborn as Jesus. True Christians are deemed Holy (a Saint) as the Son of God (regardless of human gender).
This means Christ-mass is a personal birthday for a Christian celebrating Eucharist with the Trinity, where that Christian (male or female) is in one Father-Son-Holy Spirit. It is that date and time when an individual Christian is reborn as baby Jesus. It becomes the day to sing Happy Re-birthday to you! That can be any day of the year; but collectively all Christians celebrate together when the sun has reached its lowest point in the sky, in late December (civil calendar). Then, everyone knows the light will grow brighter and the days will grow longer over the coming months.
Just as the angel of the LORD told Mary, “you will name him Jesus” – a name that bears the meaning “Yah[weh] Will Save” – so too will all who are reborn by the Holy Spirit retain that name. The new name becomes a statement of one’s having been Saved by God. That is how Jesus Saves!
When Gabriel then told Mary, “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end,” this is defining the Christ – the Messiah. Just as Jesus told Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm” (John 18:36), Jesus Christ sits at the right hand of God, but his kingdom extends to souls still in human forms on earth. It is the Kingdom of Christianity, where all subjects have been reborn in the name of Jesus, blessed with the Christ Mind, in a loving relationship with God.
The kingdom of Christ only has subjects who go out as lights to lead the world to also seek to be subjects of God and Christ. The ultimate lesson of the Advent season (especially on Christmas Eve) is to read the proposal of Gabriel as if the angel of the LORD were speaking to you. At that point, you have to become the virgin Mary and say, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”
 The Roman calendar was similar to the Hebrew calendar as the year began in March (month 1) and ended in February (month 12). Those aligned with the Vernal Equinox and were lunar based. Spring begins with the Hebrew month Nissan, and Winter ends with the Hebrew month Adar. The months September (7th month), October (8th month), November (9th month) and December (10th month) are named based on their place in a year’s twelve divisions. These align with the Hebrew months Tishri (7), Cheshvan (8), Kislev (9), and Tevet (10).