Wishing Jesus happy birthday
I've mentioned before that I still don't really "feel" God's presence. I've never felt like I have any sort of relationship with any higher power so I'm not even sure what that's supposed to feel like. I have a hard time keeping my inner skeptic at bay when I'm trying to pray or contemplate God. That voice that says, "You're talking to yourself" when I try to pray and "Are you really this easily brainwashed?!" when I agree with what I read in a C.S. Lewis book tends to be very mouthy.
In order to put that voice on mute and keep myself focused I often find myself clinging to a little bit of information that came from the most unlikely of places. When I was around 11 years old my dad, who is a hard-line atheist and vocally anti-religion, was playing with some astronomy software on his computer and thought that he might have figured out Jesus' actual birthday (he does believe that Jesus the person existed). I recently asked him to summarize his logic for this in an email:
It's unlikely that it was in December for a number of reasons, not the least of which is it's winter in the middle east and was probably cold as hell.
The three wise men were almost certainly familiar with astronomy (or, really, astrology). They would have been attracted by some sort of sign that was an astronomical phenomenon. It was not a supernova. None of the advanced societies of the day recorded one. Not a comet. Comets were harbingers of evil and doom. On April 6, 06 BC, just before the sunrise, Venus, Mercury, Saturn and Jupiter all rose in a single file slanted line over the horizon. This would have attracted the notice of astronomers, and was in the Spring when it was more likely that shepherds were in the fields. I think this would also work with when historians believe the Census of Quirinius took place.
When my dad first proposed this all those years ago I didn't know exactly who Jesus was, I thought of him as sort of a Tooth Fairy kind of guardian figure, but I did know that he played some big part in many people's lives. I was still young enough that I didn't realize that my parents could be wrong about anything, so after hearing this I decided that I knew Jesus' real birthday, and that I was possibly the only person in the whole world who knew it.
When I would go to church with my friends or hear them talking about "knowing" Jesus I would think to myself that I knew him too. In my child's world, where birthdays are some of the most exciting days of your life, I felt like it might make Jesus happy that someone down here knows his real birthday. I thought that maybe I was even special to him because I would think of him on April 6 and wish him a happy birthday.
As an adult I've never bothered to research the accuracy of this theory. I don't really care if it's true or not. It provided me with a vague feeling of closeness to Jesus that I still reference today, a feeling that is the closest I've ever come to feeling God's presence. It's a long, long way from where I need to be, but it's a start.