In the church, we observe a handful of “holy days” but really make a big deal about two of them: Christmas and Easter. The average church person believes this to be true because those two days are the most heavily attended days on the church calendar. Right or wrong, for many church attenders, if they set foot in church one or two days a year, those days will be Christmas Eve or Easter Sunday. But what gets mixed up, is how we live out the importance of those two days.
In reality, we go crazy for Christmas. We decorate our homes, our churches, our front lawns and even wear Christmas themed clothing. We buy gifts for our families and even for people we hardly know. We throw parties at work, at church, at school, at our scout meetings, lodge meetings, club meetings, and anything else we can think of. Our calendars fill up for almost the entire month of December with all of the parties, concerts, and other celebrations that we, and our families, feel we must participate in.
But at Easter we don’t really do much. We go to church on Sunday morning, where they might have put up one or two uniquely Easter-ish decorations, and then go home and have a large family dinner that is still probably smaller than the feast at Thanksgiving.
This is all backward.
We remember George Washington’s birthday. We remember Abe Lincoln’s birthday. But even though we have declared President’s Day to be a national holiday to honor them, aside from sales at the local department store, we don’t really do much celebrating. It isn’t that these men aren’t important but it wasn’t their birth that changed the world. We remember their birth because of who they became and what they accomplished. We place value on their actions and so the majority of our celebrating comes not on the birthdays of these national heroes, but on days like July 4th when we throw a party in honor of freedom and liberty.
I admit that Jesus’ birth was unique and special. Prophets told of his birth hundreds of years in advance and Mary, his mother had never slept with a man, and so Jesus’ birth stands out in history and the story is worthy of remembering and retelling. But like the forefathers of our nation, the real reason that we remember Jesus is not found in his birth, but in his life. We remember Jesus because of who he was and what he did and not simply because of his birth. In particular, we celebrate Easter because this memorable week marks the culmination and fulfillment of his life and work. All of humanity was cursed and doomed to death, but during the week of Easter, Jesus assumed the guilt of humanity and died in our place so that we might live. Three days later, Jesus rose again and demonstrated his power over death for all time. At Easter, Jesus rescued humanity for all time.
If they had not been President at pivotal times in American history, the birthdays of Washington and Lincoln would hardly be worth remembering.
Without Easter, Jesus’ birth would be historical trivia.
Easter really is more important.