Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Reason for More than a Season

~Tracy Frederick

It is just so much easier isn’t it? It is just so much easier to go to a baby shower than a funeral, isn’t it? A birthday party has much joy, love and hope while a funeral is a time of personal and social reflection, a time to consider if we have lived the right kind of life worthy of eternal reward, and it asks us to consider that our death may not be too far off. A baby shower is full of gifts and laughter. A funeral is full of tears and sorrow. A birth gives us hope and makes us think about the possibilities in the future; it rejuvenates us and energizes us. A funeral asks us to face our own mortality.  It is just so much easier, don’t you think? It is so much easier to attend a birthday party than a funeral.
As I pondered the signs on church buildings and in parking lots proclaiming “Jesus is the Reason for the Season,” the sermons preached this last weekend on the birth of our Lord, and the controversies surrounding if we “should or should not” celebrate Christmas as the birth of Christ no matter how distorted the facts have become, I think there is a deeper issue here that could be considered. It starts with a question my students would tell you that I always ask: Why? Why celebrate the birth? The facts are laid out concerning the commandments of the one who purchased me (I Cor 6:19-20) and the church (Eph 5:25-27) with His body, and what He wanted “celebrated” (Matt. 26:26-27; Mark 14:22; Luke 22:14-23; I Cor. 10:16; I Cor. 11 ). I realize there are many arguments about how it doesn’t hurt anyone to celebrate Christmas as Christ’s birth and if people will remember our Lord for one day out of the year (or two if you count Easter), isn’t that better than none? I get it…I know…and I have thought long and hard on this subject and the different arguments on both sides. But, there is one nagging issue that seems to always come back…why do we do it?  Why the baby? I guess my skepticism comes from  teaching public school and college students for so many years and noticing them always searching for the easy path. It seems to me our focus on the baby in the manger is just, well, honestly so much easier. Consider this:

It is so much easier to focus on a cute little baby in a manger than a man on a cross, that way I don’t have to carry the guilt of killing another mother’s son. We are quick to come to the aid of families, and are rightly outraged when someone harms another mother’s child. When we hear of these stories in the news, those of us who are mothers hold our children a little tighter; check on them a little more at night. We hurt for her, we cry for her, maybe even with her. We protest unjust laws, picket and sign petitions for tougher sentences for offenders and those that harm our children. Yeah, it is so much easier to see the baby than to see a mother sitting at the foot of the cross and watching her Son die for what I did. It is so much easier.

It is so much easier to see the chubby baby as He is portrayed in the nativity scenes with the sweet halo and not a care in the world, than a man who has the sins of the world hug around His neck; MY sins. It is so much easier to see the chubby cheeks of a baby cooing than the mangled body of our Lord beaten beyond recognition, being spit on, whipped with bone and metal, blood dripping from His head and face, spikes through his hands and hanging on a rough wooden cross by the bones and flesh nailed through ,pulling himself up in agony as He gasps for air. (Isaiah 53, Matt. 27). Oh yeah, that chubby rosy-cheeked baby is so much easier to picture…so much easier to celebrate than considering what I did to put those nails there, what I did to make Him beg three times to His Father for mercy and strength to endure (Matt. 26: 39-44; Lk 22:42), to do what He had to for me because I am too weak to do it for myself, too filthy with my own sin (I John 3:5; I Cor 5:21; I Peter 2:22).

It is so much easier to celebrate with cake and ice cream than to sit in humbled shame and consider the reasons for the beatings my Savior took for me. It is so much easier to think about Him having a party with streamers and gifts than to think of what I took from Him- heaven, and gave Him pain and suffering in return (Philippians 2:5-8). Yeah, it is so much easier.

I think it is interesting that there is no mention in the Bible of Jesus' birthday. Did they just not have them? Did they not celebrate birthdays? Did He not have a birthday? Was it not a tradition? Was it overlooked by our God when inspiring the scriptures for our learning? Isn’t it up to us to right that terrible wrong? Oh, I’m sure He did have a birthday, don’t you? I have a hard time believing a mother would forget, or ignore her son’s birthday. But as a woman who is fascinated by the Lord’s earthly mother, I am always intrigued by the little that we know about her, or His birth, other  than what helps us to see the fulfillment of prophecy (Gen. 49:10; Is 7:14; Micah 5:1-2, etc). There just isn’t much there. So, again I return to “why?” Why didn’t God make it a bigger deal? Did God forget? Did God not care about His only son’s birthday? I can’t help but consider that if we celebrate a baby in a manger, it is so much easier to forget and ignore the sins of the man on the cross-- the torn, beaten and bloody body---the one broken and mangled beyond recognition for my sins. You see,  it is much harder to focus on that mental image of a tormented, bleeding and humble man on the cross, to attend the funeral  each Lord's day (Acts 20:7)for the one that is the reason for my eternal hope, not just a reason for a season.

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