It is not hard to imagine hearing people asking if it really matters that Jesus was not born on December 25. Asking if it really matters the date was picked for worldly reasons. Asking if it really matters that the biblical stories point to a 10-year span as the year he was born. Asking if it really matters that there are more holes in this story than in a block of Swiss cheese. It is not hard to imagine these questions, because anyone who has pointed out these inconsistencies in the past have been met with the very same questions if not with outright hostility.
The answer to the questions of if it really matters is a hard one to answer. On the one hand, no, of course it does not matter. Not any more, that is, than it matters that Athena was born, fully grown and ready for battle, by bursting out from the head of Zeus. On the other hand, when you consider just how central the circumstances of Jesus’s birth, and the implications thereof, are to Christianity, these details really do matter.
In reading the gospels of Matthew and Luke, it becomes obvious that this birth is a major event. And yet, even with Bethlehem being choked to overflowing with people returning for the census, with a murderous king slaughtering innocent children, and with angels trumpeting the joyous news all over the countryside, the writers of the gospels still could not come up with a date. Neither, as it turns out, could the early Christians, who fared no better in determining a year for this birth, either. If this really was the birth of a living god, then it seems stranger still that Mark, the earliest gospel written, does not even mention the birth, but instead picks up the story with Jesus’s adult baptism.
The same questions plague us when we consider the idea of the virgin birth and Mary’s conception of Jesus by the Jewish god. Not only is this idea ridiculous and theologically unsound within the larger redemption narrative, but the very same gospels of Matthew and Luke that present the idea argue against it by providing Jesus’s lineage back to King David through Joseph. This is compounded by the fact that Mark, the first gospel written, makes no mention of this idea and Paul, who wrote his letters before the gospels were compiled states that Jesus was born “of the flesh” and again makes no mention of a virgin birth.
Certainly one could argue that any one of the individual problems with the story of Jesus’s birth does not amount to enough to impeach this basic premise of Christianity. However, the combination of all these errors, the internal contradictions within both gospels that proclaim the miraculous birth as well as the contradictions between them, and the complete lack of a miracle-birth narrative from the earliest Christian writers make for a compelling case against this largely unbelievable story.