A question often posed whose purpose is to get to know someone better often begins, "What's your favorite.....?" The phrase is then followed by options like "vacation spot", "food", "sports team", or "color". This is a first date question. It's a way of quickly making an evaluation of a potential long term relationships or a security question before your forgotten password may be revealed.
What happens when you don't have favorites? This has been a issue with me for my whole life. I really don't see the world through eyes that elevate one thing above another. I don't have a favorite color, restaurant, song or movie. I like a good steak, but I also love pinto beans and cornbread. Banana pudding is great, but so is a chocolate eclair. I love the first Star Wars movie but no greater than The Chronicles of Narnia. I enjoy the gospel of John, but sometimes the Book of Daniel stirs my heart. Those who know me well or have heard me preach often may think there is one exception to the rule: Christmas. I can see why you would come to that conclusion. I am crazy about Christmas. I love everything about it. However, Christmas must never be ranked above Easter.
I remember the first passion play I ever attended as a follower of Christ. I was in my early twenties and my future wife and I had been invited to one her friends church's Easter event. We had to sit in the balcony because of the size of the crowd and our late arrival. Different scenes interspersed with song were played out before us. There were the healing miracles of Jesus portrayed as those pretending to be blind or lame were brought back to health by the man playing Jesus. It was all good, but not up to Broadway standards. I admit I was getting a little fidgety as the performance passed well into the second hour. Then it happened. Jesus had been carried off stage near the end of the last scene by some men acting as rough looking Roman soldiers. I was not prepared with what happened next. Some forward thinking church volunteer had decided that the man playing Jesus should now be paraded off the stage and through the crowd. His bloodied back and wet matted wig jarred me to my soul. The man bent under the weight of a wooden cross. The actor playing a Roman soldier was slapping his back repeatedly with a prop made to look like an ancient instrument of torture. Jesus, I mean the man playing Jesus, fell under the weight of the cross in the aisle.
I suddenly was moved by a wave of emotion I had not felt at any other time in my life. I began to openly sob. What had always been just an ancient story in a moment became a sobering reality. Jesus had endured much more than I had ever allowed myself to imagine. Even this church portrayal of His suffering was almost more than I could bear. When the actor finally reached the apex of the stage, created to resemble Calvary, my tears were more than I could conceal. I began to understand for the first time what God was really trying to convey in John 3, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son..." He didn't give Him to live, but He had sent Him to earth to die...for me!
Now Easter and Christmas are held in equal regard in my mind. The joyous sound of the angels at His birth cannot mask the angry mob's railing, "Crucify Him!" on Golgotha. The magi lifted up gifts of precious metals and costly spices to the newborn King. Thirty-three years later Roman soldiers lifted up sour wine to the lips of the King of the Jews. The cold hard stone of a borrowed tomb is now where Mary lay her Son's head. A far cry even from the warmth of the manger and the soft hay beneath her Child's tiny head. Without Christmas, Easter is not even possible. Without Easter, Christmas loses it's meaning. One day cannot be held above the other. One is a gift given and the other a promise fulfilled. I get just as excited in the days leading to Easter as I do in the days prior to Christmas Day. I anticipate that morning in Springtime with equal longing as I do December 25th. I hope that if you are a follower of Christ that you begin pray as we prepare for Easter. May His death and resurrection be celebrated in your heart as if you were celebrating His birth. Both rely on the other for their meaning and purpose. If you are not a believer ask God to make the story of Christ's death more real to you than ever before. Let your heart hear His cry of pain. Hear Him say, "Father forgive them" and know He's talking about you.