I am reading Joel Watts' book Praying in God's Theater: Meditations on the Book of Revelation. I'll say more about the book, which interprets the Book of Revelation liturgically, when I finish and offer a review. But, with the Easter Season still with us, I found this passage of the book stimulating and worth sharing. The section of the book is entitled "The Birth Was Not Enough." Without discarding the birth story, or denigrating it, Joel reminds us that the Christmas story is not enough. Here is what he writes:
Sadly, our Western Christian traditions now seem to revolve around the birth of Christ, celebrated joyfully and perhaps a bit sacrilegiously in December. When Easter appears, there is something of a small remembrance, but it does not contain the level of frivolity of the previous holiday. Many would think these are the only days in the Christian calendar, with the preference given to the image of the Baby Jesus. This is the human Jesus, the one we can relate to, the one we can use as an excuse to receive gits from our loved ones. Indeed many see the birth as simply dayeinu!
Joel has already alerted us, the reader to the Passover hymn the Dayeinu, a song in which it is suggested that if one act of God's grace had happened, it would suffice if the second had not -- in this case the liberation of the Hebrews was sufficient, without bringing justice to the Egyptians.
In the case of Christmas and Easter -- the first is not sufficient without the second. And so Joel continues:
Scripture tells us otherwise. The Apostle Paul, writing his letters feverishly to churches in Asia, focused on the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Mark (the earliest Gospel) and John (the final canonical Gospel) both skip the birth of Jesus and instead focus on his death and resurrection. The birth matters, but a birth of a Jewish prophet was rather commonplace. However, it is the resurrection that sets Jesus apart. It is his death and resurrection, not his birth, that secures for us our Christian liberty. If the Gospel is simply the birth of a good man, we should read the Gospels as a tragic story of child abuse by a wrathful God-father, who simply wished his son to die. But, the focus of the Gospel story is on the final few hours of Jesus. It was not enough for Jesus to be born and thus be the moral example for us, but he had to die and then be resurrected. (p. 133).
I've heard it said that some are Christmas Christians and some are Easter Christians, but can we have one without the other? And if we have to choose, if we look to the New Testament, then birth, while assumed, is not the focal point.
As we continue the journey through this season of Easter, moving toward Ascension and Pentecost, may those of us who claim to be followers of Jesus consider the centrality of the resurrection!