At least, that's how I thought about it when I was younger.
Christmas, I thought, was the cheery holiday that evoked images of a sweet baby Jesus, a manger full of fresh-smelling hay, joyful shepherds, a glorious star and a partridge in a pear tree.
The real theological meat was diced at Easter, I believed. Easter was about blood, death, and victory won only through the harshest pain. Easter was about sanctification and propitiation and all those other "-ation" words that my pastor is supposed to explain to me.
And so, in my simple little head, Christmas was happy, Easter was hard. At Christmas, we could just sit back and not think too hard, sip our egg nog, and gaze at our happy little nativity scene in which Mary looks all clean and regal, not like a scared young teenager who just went through labor next to a cow.
That was then. I've been around the block a few times now. I don't see Christmas in quite the same way.
I look around and see homeless people and sick children and crooked politicians and hungry nations and angry young people and bitter old people...and I wonder why on earth Someone would leave Perfection for such a dirty old planet as this?
I know we needed a Savior, and desperately, but to choose to come? To enter humanity at its dirtiest--poor parents in a barn, of all places--to endure the hardest parts of being human with only the promise of the pain of ultimate sacrifice?
Maybe Christmas isn't easy after all. Maybe it's as gritty and earthy as the darkest moment on the cross.
But OH, is it ever beautiful. It's as beautiful as any Easter sunrise, as victorious as a heavy stone pushed away from a tomb.
In one glorious, cosmic, explosive moment, the God of our Universe leapt into our messed-up world. Victory wrapped in swaddling clothes.
Hope nursing at His mother's breast.
Grace in a manger.