The cross is supposed to be the center of Christianity — it is the expiation for sin which redeems humanity, the cosmic turning point of history. That may be, theologically speaking. But if this redemption doesn’t take us all back to the stable in Bethlehem, to the hillside where the shepherds heard the angels sing, to the joy of the first Christmas — what the hell good was it?
If the cross was just a last-minute reprieve, a back-stop catching us up slightly short of the abyss, it might be worthy of eternal relief, but not of eternal enthusiasm.
The cross is not the center of the moral universe — the cross places the stable in Bethlehem at the center of the moral universe. When a man or woman of faith sees a cross, he or she should ask, “Which way is that manger I’ve heard about? Can I still get there in time for the big event, even with a change-over in Denver? What are the chances of picking up some myrrh in the airport gift shop?”
Suffering marks out the road to Heaven, sure, but as Blake said, gratitude is Heaven itself. Gratitude is the destination. Hit the trail to Bethlehem and bring a gift.