Last night, I asked my Twitter followers, “Why is Christmas more widely celebrated than Easter?” Of course I got some funny answers like, “Peeps” or “Because Coca-Cola is a bigger company than Cadbury.” Then a lot of people remarked about the secularization and consumerism of Christmas, saying, “eggs vs. gifts….No brainer” and “Santa & Scrooge more identifiable to non-religious than Easter Bunny” and “giving & receiving of gifts done at birthdays, not death days.”
Those were the responses I most expected and actually thought about myself as to why, although Easter is the MOST important celebration in Christianity, our culture has placed considerably greater importance on Christmas than Easter. People spend at least a month (if not months) preparing for Christmas, decorating trees, putting up lights, buying gifts, baking cookies, and sending out Christmas cards. There are TONS of Hallmark and Lifetime Christmas movies running almost 24/7, TV variety show specials, and radio stations blasting the name of Jesus. Even if they could care less about 8 lb 7 oz. baby Jesus, people are still are singing about a “White Christmas” or “Last Christmas” or “All I Want for Christmas.” I never heard a song called “Flowery Easter” or saw a Hallmark movie about Easter or heard a whole radio station dedicated to “Spring” songs. And, even though we have 40 days of Lent to prepare ourselves for Easter, only seemingly “zealous” Christians actually partake in intentional fasting, praying, and alms-giving versus the seemingly non-religious people who partake in Christmas festivities.
Then, someone on Twitter responded, “Easter prep: penance. Resurrection = confronting His death & our sins. Christmas feels “happier”, so greater focus for many.”
My heart dropped with the truth conviction bomb.
Christmas IS a wonderful time of year! I love December. Maybe because most people, Christian and non-Christian, are celebrating family, togetherness, and giving. My heart bursts with happiness, since I love seeing Christmas lights with friends and family, having a beautiful Christmas tree by the fire place, watching silly Lifetime Christmas movies with my dad, and eating gratuitous amounts of Christmas cookies. But if that’s all it is, then Christmas only remains a “happy” time. After Christmas day, the tree comes down, the cookies are eaten, the gifts unwrapped (and possibly returned), and the lovely (crazy) family members all return to their holes, err, i mean, homes. Then, the season is over and happiness with it.
While everyone can celebrate the “happiness” of Christmas with ease, only Christians can celebrate the joy of sinfulness, weakness, and suffering of Easter. “What?! Who would do that?” you might wonder. For Christians, our sin is not the death of us. Rather, we proclaim at Easter Vigil, “O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam which has gained for us so great a Redeemer!” and in scripture we rejoice with St. Paul in saying, “I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor 12:10). In Christ’s suffering and death, we gain eternal life. In admitting our sinfulness and weakness, we “do everything possible to make [ourselves] worthy of the Kingdom” (St. Basil the Great). Christ “launches an invitation to repentance through which one can turn away from error, abandon sin, and make a commitment to renounce all vice after being ashamed of it” (St. Hilary of Poitiers).
Without the Resurrection of Christ, without Easter, Christmas means nothing. Yes, nothing. This tiny, helpless baby came into this world, born of a Virgin, for the sole purpose of dying to save all humankind from sin, to destroy sin, which is the cause of death (Romans 6:23).
–“If he had not been born as a human being, we would never have attained diving rebirth. He was born so that we might be reborn.” (St. Augustine)
–“The Word was born of Mary to destroy sin.” (St. Athanasius)
–“Having become man through the Virgin, he took upon himself the nature of the flesh so that the body of the entire human race might be sanctified through this intimate union.” (St. Hilary of Poitiers)
All this, the glorious plan: “Long lay the world in sin and error” (O Holy Night), so He was “born that we no more may die, Born to raise us from the earth, Born to give us second birth” (Hark! The Herald Angels Sing) “to save us all from Satan’s pow’r when we were gone astray” (God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen). Jesus Christ, by His death and resurrection, invites us to share in eternal joy with Him in Heaven, not just in happiness that lasts but a moment or a season. The joy of Easter IS the joy of Christmas. I rejoice because “The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name…He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart. He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones, but lifted up the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty” (Luke 1:49-53).
So, as the most beautiful Christmas song (in my humble opinion) says, “Fall on your knees! O hear the Angel voices! O night divine, O night, when Christ was born!” (O Holy Night). Then, the greatest gift we could ever receive won’t leave us after Christmas: the gift of Easter, which is the gift of our salvation (Romans 6:23).
Peace and joy to you all and “God bless us everyone!”