Why I want hot cross buns for Christmas

Stop complaining and embrace the chance to talk about Easter

The complaints have already started. Stores are already selling hot cross buns when we’re still ‘getting over’ Christmas.

Ridiculous, is what plenty of people say about the baked symbols of Easter being available. Or worse than that, as you could imagine.

Well, hang on a second. While I’ve no doubt that retailers are focused only on dollars and haven’t given a second’s thought to theology, they may have inadvertently displayed a deeper understanding of the birth of Christ than it seems.

Allow me to explain how by putting a question to you: why did one of the Magi (wise men) bring myrrh to baby Jesus at that very first Christmas?

The answer isn’t that one brought gold, one frankincense and the third said, ‘But wait … there’s myrrh.’

No, it’s because in the visit of those mysterious chaps from the east (Matthew 2:1-12), there is imagery of the person and work of Christ – including the sacrifice he would eventually make on the cross.

Gold and frankincense were standard gifts for a king in ancient times. Even though Jesus was the “king of the Jews” that the wise men came to worship (Matthew 2:2, 11), myrrh is still a strange – if fancy – gift for a royal baby. Myrrh was used in ancient times as an element of the incense used in the Jewish Temple, but it was also used to embalm the dead for burial.

Fast forward to the end of Jesus’ life on earth and, up on the cross, he was offered a drink that included myrrh.

The third gift of the Magi, then, points vividly to the purpose of Jesus Christ’s coming, which was to give his life as a ransom for many (see Mark 10:45). The death and resurrection of Jesus that is commemorated at Easter were always in view, including when a visiting wise bloke gave myrrh to a baby king.

I’m not annoyed by the presence of hot cross buns within days of Christmas because the birth of Jesus and the death of Jesus are not separate events. They are part of the one great work of Jesus Christ.

Do you know who also recognised how Easter and Christmas are intimately linked? The master artisans who created the stained-glass windows of Chartres Cathedral in France (an absolute must-see if you’re ever near Paris). One of their nativity scenes has the baby Jesus lying on a cradle next to Mary’s bed. A cradle that looks remarkably like an altar – an evident symbol of the sacrificial death Jesus was born for.

The word of God became flesh and dwelt among us in order to reconcile us to God. This includes the crucial work of taking the sin of the world upon himself and then declaring from the cross, ‘It is finished’ (John 19:28-30).

Hot cross buns this close to Christmas provide an opportunity to talk about the reason we have Christmas in the first place: Christ the King, Christ the Priest, and Christ the Mediator came into our world!

That’s why I pick …… No, I can’t go that far. But I’m not as critical of our grocery retailers as others.

They’ve given Christians a golden opportunity to speak the gospel into conversation about something as ordinary as a packet of buns.

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