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Do we prefer our Jesus to stay in a manger instead of outside an empty tomb?

Posted by on Apr 19, 2011 in blog links, discipleship | 10 comments

Do we prefer our Jesus to stay in a manger instead of outside an empty tomb?

Ok, so the title of this post may remind some people of a particular scene from the movie Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. But, that movie was not the inspiration. (However, as a point of trivia, did you know that I grew up and lived for 30 years only about an hour south of Talladega? And, I’ve never been to a NASCAR race.)

Instead, the inspiration came from Jeremy at “Til He Comes” and his post “Forget Christmas, It’s Easter.”

Jeremy points out the disparity in celebrating Christmas and Easter both in American culture and in the American church. Everyone loves to celebrate Christmas (for a month or more), but Easter seems to be an afterthought almost.

Of course, the real problem is not how we celebrate the “holidays” but what those holidays represent. As Jeremy says:

Did you ever realize that in Scripture, the birth of Jesus doesn’t really matter a whole lot? Oh sure, Matthew talks about it, and Luke gives it some room, but other than those two Gospels, it’s as if nobody cares about the birth of Jesus. No other author mentions the virgin birth. The star stops shining. The wise men disappear from the stage. Sure, the details of the birth of Jesus are critical, crucial, important, and necessary, but it still only gets a few short paragraphs in all of the New Testament. (Somewhere, I read the number of verses that talk about the birth of Jesus compared to the number of verses that talk about His resurrection, but I cannot find it right now. Anybody ever run across this?)

The resurrection of Jesus, however, is mentioned in all four Gospels, appears in nearly every chapter of Acts, and finds its way into the center of Paul’s thinking, Peter’s sermons, and John’s writings. It is almost as if the New Testament writers were saying, “The birth of Jesus? Meh…. But the resurrection of Jesus? Now that’s the good stuff!”

So, what do you think? Do we focus on the birth of Jesus too much, and do we not focus on the resurrection of Jesus enough?


10 Comments

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  1. 4-19-2011

    Alan,

    In my opinion, we focus too little on the resurrection. It is the power of the new life. In my experience, my circles have focused on the crucifixion somwhat more. Although the death is necessary to pay for sins, the resurrection gives us life. The death is like being released from prison. But what if you’re released from prison at 5:30am in January in northern Minnesota? Sure, you’re out of the prison of sin, but if you miss the limo parked at the curb that will take you on a trip to the beach in Hawaii, your vacation is far from realized. Make sense?

    The birth announced that Jesus was here, but the resurrection is what allows us to live on, in this world and the next.

  2. 4-19-2011

    Steve,

    Many, many thousands of people were crucified by the Roman government. Only one was raised to life after being crucified.

    -Alan

  3. 4-19-2011

    Alan

    I think the birth and resurrection thing is simple: Christmas is a bigger American holiday than Easter. The hype over either doesn’t really have much at all to do with Jesus.

    I agree with Steve that the crucifixion is definitely given the most attention and I think you are both right in thinking that the resurrection should probably receive more emphasis then either the birth or death. I wonder also, what about the hope of His return? It’s almost like we can be Christians without even considering Eschatology, but that seems to be a pretty common focus throughout the epistles. The hope of Christ’s return seems to be key to his followers hope.

    Good question!

    Dan

  4. 4-19-2011

    Christmas is just cooler as a holiday, especially for the materialistic mindset that we have in the “west”. I’d say in the USA, but if you read CS Lewis, youll note that he felt the same way about England sixty years ago or whenever he was writing.

    Obviously our faith is centered on Jesus’ resurrection, otherwise Paul wouldn’t say things such as 1Cr 2:2 For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified

    but holidays do not necessarily reflect our faith, they generally reflect the times when unbelievers find it necessary to show up to church 30 minutes late and leave 30 minutes early to keep favor with mom and dad

  5. 4-19-2011

    Dan,

    The relationship between the incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, and second coming are certainly very important for us to consider. Thanks for widening the scope of this discussion!

    Tyler,

    First, thanks for the comment! I agree that the way people celebrate holidays are not directly related to their understanding of either the incarnation or the resurrection.

    -Alan

  6. 4-19-2011

    My wife told me that some of the ladies she hangs out with spend just as much on their children for Easter as they do for Christmas. Gift baskets, candy, toys, electronics (!!!) are all purchased for the children to receive on Easter morning. Wow.

  7. 4-19-2011

    Jeremy,

    I agree… wow.

    -Alan

  8. 4-21-2011

    I agree that we focus too little on Easter, and our culture influences that, but I think there may be a more basic reason than has been mentioned. Simply put, we look forward to a birth more than we look forward to a death. Putting aside all the materialism, Christmas celebrates the arrival of a baby, and we love to celebrate the arrive of a much anticipated child. Easter, on the other hand, requires that we focus on a death. More than that, a death we caused. Yes, a resurrection follows, and that is glorious, but we don’t want to deal with the death that comes first. It hurts.

    I’m sure all of us would rather focus on a baby joining our family than on a (Christian) brother dying, even though we know he will be better off after he draws his last breath here….

  9. 4-21-2011

    Debbie,

    That’s a great reply. It gives us all something to think about, especially since the NT authors did not focus on the birth of Christ, but instead focused on his death, resurrection, and return.

    -Alan

  10. 4-22-2011

    Hmmm…. Now that I look at this again, I think there are two different issues being brought up here. One is the disparity in how we celebrate Christmas and Easter. The other is how much time we spend discussing/dwelling on the incarnation of Jesus versus His death, resurrection, and return.

    The first has been discussed pretty fully. There’s no doubt we tend to put more into celebrating Christmas than into celebrating Easter.

    That doesn’t translate into saying that we spend more time talking about what Christmas represents than what Easter represents during the rest of the year. In my experience, churches only focus on the incarnation during December. References (in songs, prayer, teaching, etc.) to Jesus’ death, resurrection, and – to a somewhat lesser degree – his return, however, are constant. Is that unusual?