Why lies he in such mean estate
where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christian, fear; for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spear shall pierce him through,
The cross be borne for me, for you
Hail, hail the Word made flesh,
the babe, the son of Mary.
In this month's Christian Century, Rodney Clapp reminds us that the primary feast of the Christian year is Easter, not Christmas. If we're feeling stressed out about all there is to do with nine days to go, it is good to remember that
"The pressure to keep up a relentless facade of merriment is not a Christian pressure. We may not be able to completely escape this, but perhaps we can lessen it by not confusing it with discipleship."
Tonight at ECLC we'll do our part for relief from that pressure toward merriment by hosting a Blue Christmas service -- one designed to give space for those who are grieving or finding the season difficult. I know there are many such people. Indeed, today I received a caringbridge update from the sister of a friend who died in December two years ago, just a couple days after her own 43rd birthday.
The fact that Easter is our primary feast is hinted at in a number of Christmas carols, though sometimes the "facade of merriment" makes us uneasy with verses such as this second verse from What Child is This?. Who wants to hear about nails and spears on December 24? But the fact is that the Incarnation and our redemption through Jesus' death and resurrection are bound up together. If Jesus had not been born a mortal, he would not have been fully human. If this baby had not eventually died at the hands of the Romans (and, say, had become a successful violent rebel instead), his witness to a God who wishes "peace on earth" would have been null and void.
So we can sing with some gratitude that, like we will, Jesus died. And since he rose again, we too can join in Easter songs as well. Hail the Word made flesh!