“Christmas is the most important holiday!”
I don’t know how my son and I got onto this conversation. I think we were talking about our favorite seasons and I mentioned that Autumn was mine because I love Halloween. Philip said that it seems like all of the other holidays are just one big build up to Christmas, the most important holiday. I said, “sure, it feels that way, but what about Easter?” Philip said, “well, Easter’s good too..but then there’s Christmas!”
My son’s observation I think is pretty spot-on to how we treat the holidays. Halloween can be huge, Thanksgiving is filled with food and preparation, Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year! But Easter? Isn’t that just about bunnies and candy? Or isn’t Easter for us to gorge ourselves on whatever we gave up up for Lent!
(I have personal experience doing this as a child when I gave up chocolate for Lent only to eat the entirety of one of those giant, solid, milk chocolate easter bunnies! I was so sick, I didn’t want to see chocolate again for a long, long time!)
What’s the deal with this mental dichotomy we have between Easter and Christmas, making the birth more important than the resurrection? One argument, that my son actually brought up, was that if we didn’t have Christmas then we couldn’t have Easter because Jesus wouldn’t have been born. That’s true. I gave him credit for thinking on his feet. But the rough spot that we run into is that without Easter we wouldn’t have Christmas. Easter is what gives us something to celebrate on Christmas. If this little baby, born in the manger, wasn’t raised on the third day from the dead, then we wouldn’t have any reason to remember the little baby born in the manger. He would just be another baby born a long time ago that would be lost to history. Easter is actually what makes Christmas special because the resurrection gives us a reason to remember and celebrate the birth of the one who was raised from the dead.
So, we kind of ignore this truth that we need Easter to have Christmas and go about celebrating Christmas and stuffing ourselves with chocolate on Easter (seriously, don’t do that…). I wonder if one reason why this happens for us is because Christmas is a lot easier to stomach than Easter. Here’s what I think we do.
We read the Christmas story and hear about the the immaculate conception of Mary and the virgin birth with wonder but not much of a personal stake in it, that even though we don’t get how that miraculous thing worked we can be okay without knowing. Of course, there is often that little shred of doubt that says even if it didn’t happen quite like that, it’ll be okay. It was a one time thing that we kind of store in the back of our heads to remember to ask about when we get to heaven.
But the resurrection is different. It’s not the kind of thing that we can just shrug at and store away in our minds for a future time or just be okay with whether or not it actually happened. The resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter morning has very important and urgent implications for you and me, right now. Either the resurrection did happen and all of our questions, doubts and fears about death, the afterlife, eternal life, the end and beginning of all things, all of those questions and more have their answers found in this one amazing event.
Or… the resurrection didn’t happen, none of our questions are answered, and we are as lost and pitiful as a person can be. It is either/or, there is no in-between. Easter either changes everything or changes nothing. That is why Pastor Paul two centuries ago wrote this about the resurrection of Jesus in 1 Corinthians 15:12-19.
But tell me this—since we preach that Christ rose from the dead, why are some of you saying there will be no resurrection of the dead? For if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless. And we apostles would all be lying about God—for we have said that God raised Christ from the grave. But that can’t be true if there is no resurrection of the dead. And if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost! And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world.
Pastor Paul lays it all out there. For him, it wasn’t one of those questions you side-step or avoid because you don’t want to deal with it because you’re afraid you might be out of a job. For the record, Paul was a professional tent-maker and earned a good wage for his work. For being a Christian Pastor, he was beaten, tortured, whipped, flogged, stoned, shipwrecked, imprisoned repeatedly, bitten by a snake and eventually beheaded for his work.
Which work would you choose if you didn’t believe fully and never saw Jesus personally after his death?
Which work would you choose if you did believe fully and saw Jesus personally after his death?
Easter morning changes everything and because of the reality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, Easter becomes the most important holy day of them all because Easter gives life and meaning to everything else. Maybe, one of our struggles is that we haven’t let the full implications of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter fully work through our own hearts and minds? Maybe Easter has gotten lost in our hearts with the rush of all of the other holidays and the allure of chocolate bunnies? Maybe, we still struggle in believing in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead? I don’t know what it is that holds us back, that holds you back, from letting Easter be the most wonderful time of the year.
Whatever it is, let the season of Easter truly challenge and change you till you just can’t wait to get past little ole’ Christmas because you know the most important holiday of them all—Easter, is just around the corner.