Wednesday, December 12, 2012

On the Cross and Christmas

Patheos has a new article by David Henson about why the Cross does not belong at Christmas. You can find it here: Born to Die?: Why the Cross doesn't Belong at Christmas.

He wrote it in response to a Church Christmas sign that read "Born to Die".

Yesterday, I passed a church sign that proclaimed Christmas was the story of a baby born to die. It seemed a macabre, odd way to wish passersby a merry Christmas. Apparently, though, quite a few Christians root the story of Jesus’ birth in his death, as if they are determined to nestle the cross into the manger’s hay, right next to Jesus.

I disagree with both sides in this argument. Born to die is a terribly reductive way to look at the birth of our Savior. But on the other hand the mystery of our salvation is an indivisible whole. And Henson's attempt to divorce them I think is ill conceived and the result of bad theology. Pascha is present in the Nativity as the Nativity is present in Pascha. The author uses the Nicene Creed's statement that the Incarnation is salvific to argue that the Paschal event is not also salvific. 

The point isn’t the crucifixion, or the resurrection for that matter. Rather, it’s the incarnation. Our creed proclaims as much: “for us and for our salvation, he came down … and became incarnate.” That’s why the cross doesn’t belong in the Christmas story. That’s why Jesus wasn’t born to die.

This reading of the Creed requires us to ignore the clause of that follows his quotation. "For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures;".  Henson is right to say that we are saved by Christ's life, but he errs in dividing Christ's death and resurrection from that life. 

The luminous child of Mary does show what the Divine Life is through his life, his wonderful and beautiful ministry, but also his death. It is his death that shows that this Life is so powerful that even Sin and Death cannot destroy it. "Christ is risen from the dead,Trampling down death by death, And upon those in the tombs Bestowing life!" And this is the Son of Mary who's birth we celebrate this Christmas season, the one who was born to give us the Divine LIfe, here and now, by his birth, death and resurrection. 


  1. hmm
    Born to die is a bit of a negation of everything else Jesus came to do eh?

    1. He came to redeem human life which includes the experience of death. At least in this fallen world. If the fall had never happened then perhaps the Incarnation would have happened anyway but without the Cross. Many of the Fathers thought so.

    2. But yeah it does dismiss everything else he came to do.

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  3. Born to forgive, and then die.

    "If you would gain your life in this world, you must lose it."

    Same is true for us, too. And Romans 6 says as much, also.