Why Christmas is Important at Easter
Each of us has a story.
In recent days I’ve had the privilege of listening to peoples’ stories. They fascinate me. I sit mesmerized as personal events from the past or present are told to my listening ear. For a couple of these individuals, the storybook ending has been written. Change. Forgiveness. Lives turned around. From one end of the spectrum to the other. For others, however, the pain of today is very real with no “good ending” in sight.
Why do personal stories have anything to do with Christmas?
The Old Testament narrative points to the coming of One who would be a Redeemer. Implied in the name is the concept of buying back or rescuing. And indeed, the Gospels recount the story of this man, Jesus Christ, who came and rewrote stories of peoples’ lives. A special touch. A need met. A new beginning. Christ didn’t come just for those who walked the earth at the same time He did. He came for us. You. Me. Because we all have story. And we all need a Redeemer.
Why do personal stories have anything to do with Easter?
Chapters that fill the pages of our lives have less than ideal story lines. Sometimes it’s because of what we endured due to others’ bad choices. Sometimes it’s because of our own bad choices. I was retelling part of my family narrative this morning to my oldest son. It’s a beautiful story of redemption for members in my own family. Change. Forgiveness. Lives turned around. From my family of origin, it happened when the ink on the last chapter was almost dry. But that is how God works. The Redeemer loves to redeem.
My personal narrative growing up was that of a girl who was “good.” A compliant, law abiding girl who never got into trouble. Speaking of spectrums, I landed at the very far end of “goodness” (whatever that means). So for many years, I never consciously thought about needing a Redeemer. After all, what needed to be rescued or bought back? Easter was about Sunday services, a great lunch, and an Easter egg hunt when my sons were small. Easter was nothing more and nothing less.
There is a significant purpose in Good Friday. God lovingly shows us – in His higher ways of working in our lives – that certain things in our lives need to be crucified (Isaiah 55: 8). If we truly personalize Gethsemane, however, Good Friday is for us to acknowledge “not my will, but thine” in the areas of our life that God is working to cleanse us of all those things that need to die which prevent growth and victory.
For me, the areas in my life that needed to die included pride (I had all the right answers for anyone who asked); lack of grace for others (since I was a “good” person and had all the right answers, why should I show grace for someone who wasn’t “good?”); and the list continues…..
People who are black and white thinkers don’t have much grace. And I’m the first to acknowledge the way I used to be. It takes one to know one, as the saying goes.
But that is what crucifixion does. It kills that which needs to die.
And then there’s Saturday. John Ortberg, in Who is This Man?, describes Saturday as the a “strange day….in between despair and joy. It’s the day “You have to go on, but you don’t know how. Worse, you don’t know why” (pp. 175, 176). Specifically, Ortberg writes that we each have three options when we are living in a Saturday: despair, denial, or wait.
I’ve had my own personal chapter of living in a Saturday. On its face, it appears to be a time of limbo, between despair (Friday) and joy (Sunday). But I did not despair and I did not deny. God is working on Saturday even though we may not know it. After we crucify our self-life and our way of looking at things, an unusual thing happens. A special touch. A need met. And then resurrection day comes. A new beginning. I’m thankful for that experience because I can now extend grace to someone who – in their personal narrative – doesn’t even see an Easter Sunday in sight. They are living in the aftermath of dreams dashed. I’m thankful for grace that touched me so I can, in turn, offer it to others. Without all the right, black and white, answers. Just offering hope for those who feel as though they are living in limbo.
All of us are situated on one end of the spectrum or another. We each have a story. No matter how “good” the story appears to be, redemption is needed in certain areas of our lives. Jesus came (Christmas) as our substitute (Easter) to rescue us from the ending that we write in our personal narratives. That’s what Easter is all about.
The Redeemer loves to redeem.