Visit a Christian church any time of the year and the Cross will most likely be mentioned, as it should. The sacrificial death of Christ is obviously a climatic point within the arch of Scripture. However, churches often stop at the Cross and neglect to discuss much about the resurrection. I mean, yeah, we do but the weight of our message and time spent is unequivocally centered on the death of Jesus and not His resurrection. Then, once a year, we really emphasize His resurrection just as, once a year, we really emphasize His birth. Even then, we have a tendency to jump from His birth to His death with cliché phrases such as, “He was born to die.” We paint the picture of Christmas and Easter in the shadow of the Cross. And…in one way, I can understand why. The crucifixion takes up much of the Gospels and has massively significant implications on the relation between God and mankind. However, I have to wonder if all four of the Gospel writers (yes, even John) would make us pause first to consider the mind-blowing implications of Jesus’ birth. So, I present to you, in no particular order, 7 reasons Christmas might be more important than the Cross and the Resurrection:
1. Without Christmas, there would be no Cross and Resurrection
This might seem obvious, but it is worth pointing out that God first had to show up. Without a baby in the manger, there would not have been our God on a Cross with the empty tomb to follow. Without this self-limiting step by the Divine, the rest of the story would not have happened. Yet, we often prefer to talk about the Cross, how God suffered and died for our sins, when it comes to the Gospel, and we leave out that God first became human.
2. Christmas shows the love of God
He could have sent a Get Well Soon card or shot us a text message to let us know that He’s praying for us, but He didn’t. He came in person. Not just for a quick visit or to occasionally check-in on us, but He came to “set up his tent” with His people (John 1:14 – “dwelt” literally means “to tabernacle,” or “to set up tent”). He grew up with His people. He learned. He taught. He healed. He listened. He suffered with. He forgave. 30 years in the trenches with His people. Yes, His death also shows His love for us, but I have to wonder if the 30 years, in contrast to the three days, speaks louder.
3. Atonement starts at Christmas
Dodging the whole Atonement debate, the first act in man’s reconciliation with his Creator is not the Cross. If you could pick one (I would argue that it would be difficult to do so), it would be the Nativity story: God came. No matter what your atonement theory, God incarnating Himself into the world has HUGE implications for the atonement of mankind. For an interesting read, check out Hacking Christianity’s post, Why Christmas, not Easter, Should be about the Atonement. God makes the first move and the second and the third. Just as a side, do you take the first, second, and third steps in reconciling with those who aren’t close to you?
4. God is now a historical figure
Obviously, if you do not believe in the divinity of Christ, then you’re baulking at this. Hear me out. What other event in history can any significant case be made that a deity actually showed up? I know of none. There are some events which are historically questionable and may tease with it but none are as well documented and none have as huge of an impact as that of an infant born in the boon docks of Bethlehem. For the first time, a person shows up, claiming to be divine, and He single-handedly changes the course of history not through political power, obsessive writings, or military force, but through a small group of people who didn’t always get it. If a god ever actually showed up in history, the Christmas story would be the prime suspect.
5. The divide between spiritual and physical is rendered non-existent
Without diving too deep into Dualism,
it basically states there are two planes of existence, the one we live in and an extraterrestrial one. Then, the debate is which one is good and evil, which one is real and less real, and so on. It’s such a basic assumption that we all have basic inclinations towards it. Like the car alarm in the parking lot, we hardly even notice that it is there. The Incarnation of God blows this assumption up, like a cement truck packed full of dynamite. Through Christmas we know that the Creator is aware, is involved, and is invested into His creation. Even if there were a separation between the two planes of existence, the birth story of God bridges the gap. Yet, as Paul says the Greek philosophers, “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). He is not outside of His creation and occasionally has to inject Himself into it. Creation is in Him.
6. We can see what God looks like
Jesus said, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9) and “For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise” (John 5:19). As a friend of mine likes to say, if you want to see what God looks like, look at Jesus. If you want to see what God does, look at Jesus. He touches the diseased and outcast. He hangs out with the oppressed and forgotten. He rebukes the religious self-righteous. He knows His text. He teaches. He serves. He feels. He invests. He forgives. He suffers. He’s misunderstood. He heals. He is intentional. He is the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15) and, by the way, so are you (Genesis 1:26-27).
7. The Advent shows that God is working
The Bible is full of miraculous stories but it is also full of silence and pain. The 400 years before that first Noel theologians call the silent period (BTW, it wasn’t silent). God’s people, struggling to worship Him, lived in oppression by other nations only for a brief period to experience freedom and then to have it ripped away. Gideon asked the Angel of Lord where were all of the great deeds he had heard about. The Israelites were in Egypt for quite some time before God finally reached out to Moses. Job suffered for 30+ chapters before God finally responded…with no answer at all for the reason of Job’s sufferings. Instead, Job was invited to trust in the power and sovereignty of God. The miracles exist to call us to trust Him in the silence. In the same way, Advent calls us to trust the God that IS working everywhere, in everything, at all times.
This Christmas, don’t miss the importance of this event in Human history. It matters in and of itself. The Cross and Resurrection only amplify the significance of Jesus’ birth.
I am sure that there are many more reasons for the significance of Christmas but these are the ones that happened to be on my mind. What do you think are some other reasons for the importance of Christmas? Leave a comment below.