Births and Rebirths

“The Corpse of Christ,” Annibale Carracci

Every Easter I hear Christmas music.

That’s not unusual — Christmas carols are my favorite songs. I sing them in my head year-round. But I hear them a little louder at Easter. It never fails — on the weekend we celebrate the death (we celebrate the death!) and resurrection of Christ, I always think about His birth:

Mild he lays his glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth

All the best Christmas carols have Easter in view. It must be so, because the death and resurrection of Christ necessitated an incarnation — men and women cannot be reborn unless they are joined to the risen Christ, and Christ could not die unless He was born.

This is the great uniqueness of the Christian faith as it relates to the struggle of human existence: That God did not merely provide a prescription for the problem of suffering from on high for us to sort out on our own, but instead came to suffer with us. Jesus did what no other god could. He came to hurt with us, to mourn with us, to know our shame, to touch our faces. In Jesus we saw, in the words of the Apostle Paul, “The image of the invisible God.” No longer would we be required to commune with God by means of ritual or ceremony. Christians do not worship at the feet of a philosophical construct or theological abstract. We worship at the feet of a God-man, who stooped to be like us and then died and rose so we could be like Him.

Gerard Manley Hopkins grasped the exchange, when he wrote of the resurrection:

“In a flash, at a trumpet crash, I am all at once what Christ is, since he was what I am, and This Jack, joke, poor potsherd, patch, matchwood, immortal diamond, Is immortal diamond.”

So on Easter weekend I think about births — mine, and Christ’s, and how they were equally undignified and how He was what I was. I think about flesh — mine, and Christ’s, and how the two are joined together in baptismal union. I think about graves — mine, and Christ’s, and how His is empty, and how I crawl into mine daily because a grave is the place where one communes with a God who said “I am the resurrection and the life.” I think about deaths — mine, and Christ’s, and how by miraculous grace they are the same. I think about resurrections — mine and Christ’s, and how because His is finished business mine has happened and is happening and hasn’t happened yet all at once.

And I think about Christmas, and the most criminally unsung verse in Christendom:

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

All the way to me — poor potsherd, immortal diamond.

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