Is the birth or resurrection of Jesus most important?

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Which is more important: Jesus’ birth or His resurrection, and why? 

I like your question. It pushes us to think great thoughts and face great questions, like “Who is God? Who is Jesus? What did He/they do? How should we respond?” 

Jesus Christ’s time on earth began and ended with incomparable events. At the first, God’s Only Begotten entered human history when He was born in a Bethlehem barn. Then at the last, over thirty-three years later, the Son was killed as a common criminal, buried in a borrowed tomb, raised to eternal life, and returned to the Father’s glory in heaven, where He came from.

Your question refers to the first of these two Christ events by condensing it into two familiar words: Jesus’ birth. In theological language, Jesus’ birth is commonly called the Incarnation of Christ. That term beckons us to further study of texts that expound this awesome truth: The Word that was with God and was God became a man and lived among us, beginning in Bethlehem (Matthew 1; Luke 2; John 1:1-14; Philippians 2:5-11; Hebrews 1:1-3; et al.) 

Those of us who avoid traditional Christmas festivities, due to their link with false religion and dubious cultural practices, should take care not to “throw out the baby” and thus lose much of Scripture’s truth on Incarnation. If Christ was not fully divine, if He did not lay aside eternal glory at His birth to become one of us in time and space, then our hope may be built (is built) on something less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. 

Because of the exceeding importance of Jesus’ birth (i.e., His incarnation) to launch the Bible’s salvation story, it is proper to ask how that ranks alongside the awesome apex event of His rise from the dead as the gospel story nears its end. Just as we broadened birth to incarnation for a broader perspective of your question, we will broaden the term resurrection to include the Lord’s return to the Father’s presence soon after He exited the tomb. Just as Christ’s resurrection is logically and theologically inseparable from the cross event that preceded it, it is also inseparable from His ascension that soon followed. 

The terms incarnation and humiliation comprehend more biblical truth than birth does in naming Christ’s descent from heaven as a human to serve others and die for all. The same is true of Christ’s atonement and exaltation. They capture more of the glorious meaning implicit in His death, resurrection, and ascension than any one of those events alone — as biblically rich as each of them is! 

Thus the whole, timeless scriptural story of salvation in Christ is double-hinged in time: first by the coming/birth/incarnation of our heavenly Lover and Lord Jesus, and second by His death/resurrection/ascension to the Father’s throne in heaven, where He will soon return from in power and great glory. Both birth and resurrection denote stupendous miracles of God’s power and grace: The great ineffable Creator becomes our Savior in human form. His defeat and death at Satan’s hands are upended by the “impossible” truth that the crucified and buried God-man lived again and lives forever. 

Divine Son begotten by heavenly Father and birthed by human mother! Our God-man’s death and resurrection has conquered our greatest enemies! 

Rather than deciding which of the two is more important, we recognize them as the first and second great scenes in the divine drama of redemption, featuring the immeasurable love of Father and Son conveyed to our hearts and minds by the Holy Spirit. God ordained both birth and resurrection — humiliation and exaltation  — as equal halves of the complete divine-human experience, including that of His Son on our behalf. 

Your positively provocative question leads this writer to the opinion that the twin miracles of Christ’s birth and resurrection are of equal importance in the divine drama of redemption. 

— Elder Calvin Burrell

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    Calvin Burrell is former editor of the Bible Advocate and former director of G. C. Missions. He retired in 2015 and lives with his wife, Barb, in Stayton, OR. They attend church in Marion, OR.