May you have a joyous festival of Sukkot!
Imagine living in the year 4 CE. It is October 4, or Tishri 15, 3758 on the Hebrew Calendar. At sunset, tonight, it is the dawn of Sukkot, (starts at sunset on October 2, 2009) the first day of a High Holy Day, a Pilgrimage Sabbath. Everyone who is Hebrew is required to travel to Jerusalem to attend this 8 day festival. In addition, the Roman Empire has ordered that a census be taken…..and you have to travel to the town of your ancestors to be counted as part of that family’s descendants. There are thousands and thousands of people in Jerusalem for the High Holy Day which starts tonight. Each family is required to build a sukk’ah, a temporary dwelling, a booth, a temporary tabernacle, and dwell in it for the 7 days of this feast of tabernacles, or sometimes called the feast of Ingathering.
These booths are erected to house families with some bare comforts and food for the seven days. (It would be like us going camping for a whole week these days.) Food is placed in an animal-fodder crib for storage in these temporary tabernacles (sukk’ah or booth). The King James Bible has translated the word for food crib as “manger”. After the 7 day long feast, there is an additional Sabbath Day on the 8th day called the Shemini Atzeret Sabbath “The Last Great Day” because it is the final annual Holy Day that was God-established. The next Holy day is the next Passover.
It is the fall of the year as the harvests are being brought in (gathered). Shepherds are in their fields watching over their flocks. Jerusalem is flooded with people as everyone is required to go there for this Festival. Everything is full. And there are sukk’ahs everywhere. Perhaps thousands of them! Overwhelmingly massive crowds of Hebrew Pilgrims attending this High Holy day, this first day of the Feast. Crowds have previously arrived (to build their temporary tabernacles to stay in) and crowds are still continuously arriving, to lodge through the entire region. By sunset, Jerusalem and all of the surrounding villages are completely full. Even the nearby city of Bethlehem. Not a place to be had anywhere.
Two young Hebrews, Joseph and Mary, need to do 2 things. They need to go to Jerusalem and they need to go to Bethlehem because that’s where Joseph must go to register for the census. It is literally just 4 miles from Jerusalem. A "stop on the way". Mary is pregnant. They get to Bethlehem. She goes into labor. No place to stay. She is offered a sukk’ah (not a stable) as a place to deliver her baby, and she then placed her baby in the food crib.
IF that is in fact what happened, consider these possibilities:
- the Messiah was born on the first day of Sukkot – The Festival of Tabernacles, the Feast of Ingathering, a High Holy Day. This day is a Sabbath.
- He was born in a temporary tabernacle, a sukk’ah, (not a stable) because he came to tabernacle with us.
- He was placed in a food storage crib because He is the “bread of life”.
- As tradition, He would have been named and circumcised on the 8th day which would have been a Sabbath,
- 9 months prior to Sukkot is Hanukkah, the Festival of lights. The dedication of the Temple celebration. He would have been conceived during this holiday because He is the light of the world.
- Zechariah 14:16-17 says that one day in the future all nations will be required to honor this feast.
For me, this is all I need to know. I LOVE this story. My Messiah was born in the fall of the year, when it was warm, in a temporary tabernacle, on a Sabbath that was a High Holy day, on the first day of the Feast of Ingathering, and was placed in a food storage crib because He is the bread of life. He was conceived during the Festival of Lights because He is the light of the world.
I will start this day to keep this feast – in my heart – as I truly believe this is how He was born. No "Merry Christmas" from me as that date is simply a pagan holiday. But this night, this eve of Sukkot, may you be blessed, may your heart be softened, may you come to know that your questions can be answered - all one must do is study the Word.
Jn 1:14 "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us."
May this week be a true celebration of joy for you.
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