Over Easter, I said to Logan (as part of a larger conversation) “One of my biggest problems with Easter…” Yeah, I know. “Problems with Easter.” I’m an asshole. I know.
But there was a point there, so let me finish. My biggest problem wasn’t that Easter falls into the trap of being an important Christian holiday because the only important Christian holidays (and by important I mean “gets a big to-do”) are the ones that are marketable to kids / are occasions for presents. But that is a problem I have with it. That’s another post, though. What I went on to tell Logan was this:
“All jokes aside, I think one of my biggest problems with Easter is that people treat it like we didn’t just go through Lent, or that we won’t go through it again next year.”
What I’m trying to get at is my frustration with our insistence on living linearly, when our actual sense of time is so damn circular. We use calendars. We rotate through a cycle of months, we live through the cycling seasons, OUR CLOCKS ARE ROUND. People want events and narratives to end and be definitive in their conclusions, but that's not how our lives play out, and it shouldn't be how our stories play out.
How we tell stories matters. How we communicate a narrative matters. Good stories tell us something true about human reality and our felt, lived existence. And Easter is a really good story. But one of the most critical things it communicates to us about reality is that “great stories are living stories.” They keep going.
Which is why Easter in the context of our circular lives is an even better story than the one people try to pigeonhole it as each year. “We are Easter people!” they exclaim. Yes, but you’ll be Lenten people next year. “God died! God is risen!” Yes, but it’s actually “God died! God is risen! God will die again! God will rise again!”
To me, that’s a truer, better story. It mirrors our daily lives. We go through the same stuff — good and bad, momentous and tiny — day in and day out. We age, which is linear on a small scale, but we die and our cells spread through the air and soil and pretty soon we’re as much like stardust as everything was in the beginning. Which is about as circular as it gets.
We blew right past Advent4 into Christmas. Sorry about that. My 13 month old daughter has been giving us a real fresh reminder at night about what it was like a year ago when she was a newborn. Makes me think about this little guy, Jesus, whose birth we celebrate today.
Go, Jesus! Way to be born.
People take to churches, street corners, and social media to announce the birth. And, irresistibly, we inject the Easter stuff into the manger.[^2] “Christ was born to save,” we crow. That’s all fine.
But then again, Advent4 shows us Mary interpreting her own story. She’s given the news that she will bear a child for God and she busts out in this song. She shows us that her life isn’t solely determined by its utility as the God-bearer.[^3] She places her-self smack in the middle of a cosmic history spanning millennia. And look, I know there’s some salvific language in there, but I don’t know if she’s necessarily making a set in stone determination about who Jesus is going to be and what he’s going to do.
Maybe, ultimately, Jesus doesn’t get to be an end unto himself. His story is bigger than that. But there’s ample evidence throughout the scriptures that Jesus craved the ability to define his own narrative, one not set by empire, religious authority, family, his disciples, and ultimately even God.
Look, I know last week I was talking about how we have to look forward to Good Friday to get a full picture of what Advent and Christmas is about. But on Christmas Day that’s bunk. Whatever soteriology (theory of salvation) works for you or your tradition is all fine and good. But right now he’s just this little baby, you know? Mary and Joseph are too tired to think about the savior of a nation, I can tell you that. Can we put aside our narratives for a moment and dwell there with them?
Happy Jesus, everyone.