Your Christmas Needs More Easter
If you have been to any birthday parties for 4 year olds lately, you know what I am about to tell you. When the piñata comes out, there are two dominate mindsets. First is the parent’s. This mindset is driven by visions of some boy swinging for the fences only to connect with the pigtails of some sweet, unsuspecting party-goer. The main thing the parents want is for that not to happen. The second dominate mindset is that of the children. Their gaze is locked on the first hint of the glorious cascade of tasty candies. Their mission: Get while the gettin’s good, even if someone is still swinging.
Christmas is the ultimate worldwide birthday party, and rightly so. God taking on flesh in the womb of a virgin and being born in a stable is mysterious and awesome. But, just like the piñata senerio, the American church seems to be taking on a mindset that says you better get whatever significance you can before it is all sucked away by materialistic consumerism. If you can keep some of the doctrinal truths; if you can maintain a spiritual atmosphere; if you can keep Jesus as the reason for the season, then you have done alright.
But that is not enough. Your Christmas needs more Easter.
There is a reason for the season. But to just say “Jesus” is too vague compared to the explicit and repeated reason Scripture speaks of. Everywhere you turn, the gospel is the reason for season. Easter is why Christmas exists.
In Scripture, when the incarnation and/or coming of Christ is spoken of, the gospel is normally there. Either the gospel’s accomplishment on the cross or the gospel’s culmination in the kingdom is in view. We will survey a sampling of passages, but I invite you to explore Scripture and see that the incarnation is predominantly either setting up or being directly tied to one reality; Christ’s righteous life given in death to reconcile sinners to God. This is why our Christmas needs more Easter.
First, let’s look at some key passages in the Old Testament. What we find is that the Savior who comes to earth is the one who sets up His kingdom. That is the gospel of reconciliation being culminated. People are reconciled to God by being brought into his direct presence.
Genesis 49:10 The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.
Isaiah 9:6 For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders…”
Isaiah 11:1,10 1 Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, And a branch from his roots will bear fruit. 10 Then in that day The nations will resort to the root of Jesse, Who will stand as a signal for the peoples; And His resting place will be glorious.
Micah 5:2 “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel.”
Secondly, the New Testament is replete with statements about the incarnation.
First, think through the gospels. Only Matthew and Luke speak about the birth of Christ. That is significant. While the virgin birth and the amazing events surrounding it are vital realities, they do not always have to be stated. The reason is because the cross was the central purpose of all the gospels. Each gospel shows various perspectives of Jesus’ perfect life, but they all give most of their time to the main purpose; the cross. Matthew and Luke’s purpose in including the birth narratives was tied to how Matthew and Luke wanted to display this Christ who would go to the cross. Additionally, both Matthew and Luke made the birth narratives gospel-centered (Matt. 1:21, 2:17-18 (a quote from Jeremiah which is tied to the New Covenant), 2:23 (a quotation probably referring to his coming rejection), Luke 1:32, 46-55, 67-79; 2:11, 30, 38). Mark and John had different approaches to get to the cross. Regardless, the gospel of the passion week was the goal. Our Christmas needs more Easter.
Look at this following sample of verses. All of them are key incarnational passages. All of them take us to the cross.
Luke 19:10 For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.
Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.
John 6:51 “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.”
John 12:27 Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour.
Philippians 2:7–8 …but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Galatians 4:4–5 But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, 5 so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.
Hebrews 2:14 Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil,
1 John 3:5 You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin.
1 John 3:8b …the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.
I hope you see this with a bit more clarity and feel a bit more urgency. The Christmas season should serve as a large launching pad for communicating the gospel. What an awesome opportunity! This is like the meat-ball pitch in baseball, or the perfectly placed set in volleyball. If we miss this month for advancing the gospel, we have been negligent. Sadly, it often happens.
What are those things that can make us feel that we have done enough to make Christmas a spiritual event? Doctrinal protection, spiritual focus, and high thoughts on the attributes of God are a few particularly seductive ones.
We must not be satisfied with doctrinal protection. This is the Ephesian church error that we read about in Revelation chapter 2. They were guardians of doctrine while losing their first love. In the same way, we also can use this season to assert the virgin birth, the necessity of 100% humanity and 100% deity of Jesus, or the inspiration of Scripture that has been fulfilled. All of those things are absolutely vital and they must be defended. If they are under attack, then let’s make sure we are in the battle. These battles must be won, but the gospel’s advance is the true war. There are many reasons why these doctrines matter, but the gospel is paramount. The virgin birth had to happen so that Jesus would be a true man who could live perfectly and die as a substitute. The incarnation had to happen so that this true man was also the true God who could bear infinite wrath. The fulfilled Scriptures are those showing us how we can be reconciled with God. We must have more Easter in our Christmas.
Spiritual focus is getting harder and harder to maintain in our culture. Materialism, with its underlying greed and selfishness, is gaining deeper footholds every day. Our culture is running away from those Christian moorings that have stabilized this country for so long. The temptation for us is to simply emphasize the spiritual nature of this season. We strive to keep Christ in Christmas, to make our nativity scenes publically prominent, and to make sure our Christmas cards have a well-placed verse. Again, this is all well and good as far as it goes. But be sure, Scripture says it is not far enough. Keeping Christ in Christmas only matters if you keep the cross in Christmas. You do not win the marathon if you stop at mile 25. You must take them to the Easter that is in our Christmas.
Affirming the attributes of God is a glorious endeavor. There is no better time than Christmas to highlight the tenacious, initiating love of God that would send His own Son. The inconceivable humility of God putting on flesh as a helpless babe should fill our minds this season. The covenant-keeping God who keeps His promises of long ago is a message that resonates with extra potency in December. However, all of these attributes find their most glorious expression on the cross. To make the cross a tack-on to your Christmas message or your Christmas letter is missing the very heart of God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe (2 Tim 4:10). Easter is not as heavily celebrated as Christmas in most homes, and that is backwards. Easter is why Christmas had to happen and should be prominent all through Christmas.
Your Christmas really does need more Easter. Even if you are reading this as someone who makes the gospel dominate during Christmas, I have yet to meet someone who overemphasized the gospel. In 1 Corinthians 2:2, Paul said he knew one thing, “Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” That would not have changed had there been a cultural Christmas celebration in his day. The gospel is the power of God, the treasure in jars of clay, the light in a world of darkness. We must preach it to ourselves every day and to the world every day. Having a Christmas season makes it easier. Therefore, to line up with Scripture means that our cards, our cookies, our pageants, our decorations, our parties, our services, our messages will be finding a way to the cross with greater speed, greater clarity, and greater power. The Spirit will empower this pursuit because His grand goal is glorifying the Lamb of God who came to take away the sin of the world. With Scripture in hand, and filled with the Holy Spirit of God; let’s get more Easter into our Christmas.