By Daniel Schantz
“A good name is better than precious ointment, And the day of death than the day of one’s birth” (Ecclesiastes 7:1, New King James Version).
There is nothing so magical as the birth of a child, whether it’s a routine birth or a baby that comes in the taxi on the way to the hospital.
There is always that frisson of fear—is the baby normal? Does he have all his fingers and toes? Were there complications? Is mother OK?
And there is curiosity. “Is it a girl? Is it a boy? Is she pretty? Is he cute?”
Suddenly the parent’s well-ordered life is thrown into chaos, as everything suddenly revolves around this helpless child and his constant need for attention.
But with every birth comes a list of unanswered questions. Will he be a good boy when he grows up, or will he go bad? Will he get a good job, or will he be stuck in a job he hates? Will he marry and have children, or will he be lonely? Will he live a long and prosperous life, or will he die young in a terrible accident?
A lot can happen between birth and death.
The birth of Christ was the most thrilling birth in the history of the world. The world has never been the same.
Jesus was a healthy boy, with all his fingers and toes. He was a good boy and he grew up to be a good man, a carpenter and a teacher. He never married, but he was constantly surrounded by people. He died young, a violent and unjust death.
But the day of his death was better than the day of his birth, because his death erased our crimes. He made it possible for us to live beyond shame. His death made possible his resurrection, and his resurrection made possible our resurrection.
The birth of Christ is still a time for merriment and celebration, but here at this table we celebrate a better day, the day of his death.
For three days the world held its breath, wondering if this Christ was just another man or if he really was unstoppable, as he claimed to be.
Now we know, and it’s a good time to ring bells and sing carols. A time to eat and drink and rejoice in the day of our salvation.
Now we wear the name of Christ, a name that is better than precious ointment.
Daniel Schantz is a professor emeritus of Central Christian College of the Bible, Moberly, Missouri.