At the risk of sounding heretical—and I don’t mean to offend anyone—I ask what’s all the hubbub about Easter? As a Christian who knows Christ as the Son of the triune God, isn’t the resurrection an inevitable event? In confessing Christ as Lord and accepting His invitation to follow him in His “way” I find Christ’s incarnation at Christmas to be so awe inspiring that it elevates the “Word becoming flesh to live among us” over that of the resurrection at Easter.
That “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son,” profaning Himself to be one with us in the flesh—showing us “the way, and the truth, and the life”—what incredible love is that! That is singularly profound, continuously taking my breath away.
A fellow deacon, St. Francis of Assisi, was inclined to think so too. Unlike most Christians of his day who considered Christmas one of the lesser feasts, St. Francis promoted Christmas to be the “Feast of Feasts.” Francis’ love for Christmas was commemorated in a special way in 1223 with the first Christmas creche, shaping how we celebrate Christmas today. As with Francis, the profundity of God not only loving all creation, but for Christ to profane himself to be one of us, to be born, to live, and to die like one of us, blows my mind.
A fellow Franciscan, John Duns Scotus (1265-1308) argued that the reason for the incarnation is love. The incarnation is God freely choosing to end His invisibility and show who and what He is to creation. What makes this spirituality so beautiful is that through the Incarnation, God is a loving God centered on love, and not on sin and atonement making this focus a game-changer.
In 2015, the polling institute Angus Reid, reported that for many the understanding of Christ and His work is primarily based on Christ dying for our sins and a destined salvation after death for those who believe, an understanding that for many is unattractive, to say the least. For me, an alternative recounting to God redeeming us from sin, would be that God loves us and redeems us by being with us, proclaiming and showing by example the kingdom at hand.
Per Franciscan theology, redemption is an act of love first and foremost, not an act of saving us from sin—and the first act of redemption is the incarnation. Emphasis is on the imitation and love of the humanity of Jesus (orthopraxis), not just worshiping his divinity (orthodoxy). It’s the humility and humanity of Jesus that makes Him imitable, accepting Jesus’ invitation to follow Him engaging us in Kingdom living. Francis’ heartfelt desire was to be like Jesus—his simple rule for the Franciscans was “To follow the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ and to walk in his footsteps.”
Our contemporary minds seem to refuse being in awe anymore. We are only aware of what is wrong, and incapable of rejoicing in what is still good, true, and beautiful. As deacons we are called to be in the world, of the world, and to preach the good, true, and beautiful to the church. To preach the love of Christ, the awesomeness of His birth and life, His life-giving teachings, and examples of how He is the “Way” leads to life.
By making it our “missionalministry”—a phrase I have coined to express that a missional perspective inevitably leads to doing ministry—to live by Jesus’ example and sharing when asked the purpose, the why, of our ways, I have experienced a far greater receptiveness to the good news of Jesus Christ of Christmas than that of Easter.
Christmas is a reminder that God’s unselfish, life-giving love began with incarnation. An ideal love that may well take precedence over the idea that we are so sinful that we only need God’s expiating forgiveness. I wonder, what would our world be like in continuous Christmas? Alleluia! Christ is born; The Lord is born indeed. Alleluia!