Lewin (as quoted by Mackinlay, ibid.) has shown that the Nativity must have been in hot weather, which ends in Palestine during October. Sheep are folded securely in winter at night for protection, as they will feed during the day at that season of the year; but in the summer and early autumn, sheep will not eat during the heat of the day, so they have to be left to graze in the open at night guarded by shepherds (Luke 2:8).
Thus the Rev. Thomas Maddock was right insofar as he described as “really too much to believe” the assertion that the shepherds were sitting “on the cold, frozen ground – in mid-winter - watching their sheep”. But he was quite wrong in attributing this ridiculous image to St. Luke, and in casting aspersion on the reliability of St. Luke’s narrative of the Nativity of Our Lord.
If the Magi arrived in May (Mackinlay’s BC 9), the Nativity could not have been later than the middle of April, because the Purification – which was forty days after birth – (Leviticus 12:2-4; Luke 2:22) – came before the visit of the Magi, as the Holy Family fled to Egypt immediately after the wise men had seen them (Matthew 2:13, 14).