…and rose again on the third day…
On the day that is just about perfectly in the middle of Advent, it seems odd to be reflecting on what is essentially Easter. However, as I spent more time with this line from the creed it felt more and more appropriate to the present season.
I understand those who have the bumper stickers, “Keep Christ in CHRISTmas.” The commercial aspects of the holiday are considerable. But I worry, not because of the secularization or commercialization of Christmas, but because the Christ of Christmas is so much easier for us to accept as God than the Christ of Easter. The adorable baby we see in all the creches is a God who we can control. A small child needs us to feed it, change its diapers (or the first century equivalent), keep it warm, and protect it from harm. This is an image of God that is fragile, familiar, unassuming, and undemanding.
The God of the Resurrection is utterly unidentifiable, mysterious, loving yet demanding. Mary Magdalene did not recognize him (John 20:11-18) nor did the disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35).This is a God who bears so little resemblance to the baby in the manger. The God of Easter is the God whose words were so difficult to hear that people plotted to kill him. The God of the Resurrection is the God who loved those who others condemned as sinners, sharing meals and healing them without judgement. The God who Rose is the God who is transformed and asks each of us to embrace that same transformation, in this life and the next.
The Christ who Rose is the Jesus who challenged religious self-righteousness, the Jesus who healed, the Jesus who learned from those around him, the Jesus who wept with his friends, the Jesus who invited the ostracized to dinner. This Jesus is much harder to embrace, much harder to welcome, than the small and charming child of Christmas.
I’m not concerned about fighting the culture wars over Christmas. It is a straw man anyways. Christmas is a time to live as the Christ of the Resurrection invites us to do – invite those who are ostracized to our homes instead of to our judgment, to offer healing for the harm we have caused and safe places for healing from others, to learn from and comfort those who struggle with the holidays from grief or trauma (especially if that grief and trauma comes from religious experiences). I am not as concerned with the platitude refrain to keep Christ in Christmas but rather with keeping myself as close to the Christ who healed, loved, and rose at Christmas and each day of the year.