Thursday, December 15, 2011

One Continuous Celebration

Christmas: a time for celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, the Savior of all mankind.  Understandably, we make a very big to do about this time of year.  After all, the coming of God in human form to live and die for us is the most monumental event in the history of the world.  It is this thought that started me thinking about which holiday is greater: Christmas or Easter?  What is more important, the coming of God to die and rise again or his actual dying and resurrection? 

If one were to analyze how our current culture celebrates each of these holidays, the impression would be given that Christmas is by far and away the most important of the two.  Sadly, Christmas has become more and more of a secular celebration than a religious observance.  Easter also has become more secular as the years have gone by, but is nowhere near the blockbuster commercial season that Christmas is to American consumers.  Instead, Easter has become associated with Spring Breaks and vacations to get away from the redundancy of everyday life.  It can, therefore, be concluded that in order to answer the question of which of these events is more important we must look at it from a purely religious point of view and not through the eyes of modern society.

That being said, let us look at how Christians observe each of these events.  Both Christmas and Easter have Church seasons leading up to them: Advent coming before Christmas and Lent coming before Easter.  In these seasons, Christians are preparing themselves for the celebration.  This preparation is not one of monetary or physical means, but rather one of a spiritual nature.  Before Christmas, Christians spend six weeks reflecting both on the first coming of Jesus the Christ and also look forward to his second coming at the end of times.  In a word, they prepare for Jesus's second coming just as the Jews of the Old Testament were to prepare for His first.  Before Easter, Christians spend six weeks reflecting on their sinful condition, a practice that will help them to appreciate God's sacrifice all the more.  It is so easy to take Jesus for granted because He is ever willing to forgive the repentant heart; this attitude is wrong in and of itself, and Lent's purpose is to help us break that bad habit and realize the magnitude of our sins and the consequence we deserve, but will not receive through our faith in Christ's sacrifice.

Observe the, if you will, the importance both of these events have in the lives of Christians.  Both are of such great preponderance to Christians that they will spend weeks spiritually preparing for them.  Notice also that the time frame of preparation is the same: six weeks for each.  From this we can conclude that the answer to our question of which is more important cannot be answered by looking at the seasons leading up to each event because they are extremely identical.  We must, then, look in a different place.

However, what if that is our answer?  What if neither Christmas nor Easter are more important than the other?  This idea, while not unfamiliar to some Christians, may seem like a new idea to some (and certainly to those outside of the Church who see only secular differences between the two).  Ponder this, if you will: Without Easter, Christmas would have no meaning.  This is a true statement, is it not?  Without Jesus fulfilling the purpose for which he had been sent, Christmas would be worthless.  Christmas is the celebration of the Messiah coming to save humanity from its sins.  What would there be to celebrate if He had not done what He came to do?  In the same way, it can said: Without Christmas, Easter would have no meaning.  This is also a true statement.  How could there be a celebration of the Messiah's saving work if the Messiah had never come?  It is for this reason that the followers of Judaism do not recognize Easter in the religious sense.  There is nothing to celebrate because they believe nothing has yet happened (For that matter, it is the same reason they do not celebrate Christmas in the religious sense; they do not believe the Messiah has come so why celebrate his coming?).

What we can conclude from this is that Christmas and Easter are not only equally important, but are also major events that should be part of a singular celebration.  Since neither could exist or have any real significance without the other, shouldn't both be held in equal esteem?  The fact of the matter is that this is how it should be, and that the religious preparation that occurs before each of these events should be part of a Christian's everyday life; not just something that happens in one Church season throughout the year.  There is a song that states, "If you have love in your heart and your mind, it will feel like Christmas all the time."  A more accurate lyric would be: "If you have Christ in your heart and your mind, it will feel like Christmas and Easter all the time."

Can you imagine how wonderful the world would be if people did not reserve their religious thoughts and observances for only once or twice a year?  The simple truth is that Christmas and Easter are both part of the ongoing celebration that should be a continuous part of every person's life.  Everyone is quick to proclaim how much they love Christmas or Easter because of the feelings those times of year bring with them.  What they fail to realize is that Christmas and Easter are really one continuous celebration that can last their entire lives if they truly desired it to.  Christ creates that desire, making him the reason for all seasons, not just this one.

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