by David Phelps
“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” – Mother Teresa
As I’ve noted before, “One of the ironies of any kind of publishing is the lag between when something is written and when it is read.” (Person-2-Person, January, 1997). In this case, even though you’ll probably be reading this in February, I’m writing it in January and the occurrence I’m going to describe took place in December and involves Christmas.
Specifically, a radio listener complained that she was disgusted by the attempt to “turn Christmas into a religious holiday.” Excuse me? Doesn’t the “Christ” in “Christmas” mean it’s a religious holiday? To be fair, the radio listener is Jewish and therefore doesn’t view the holiday the same way that even a nominal Christian might. But for the rest of us—and especially for those of us who are believers—as they say, “Jesus is the reason for the season.”
Granted, there are parts of the world where Christmas is very different from the American and European version. In Japan, for example, Christmas is primarily for couples, somewhat like Valentine’s Day is in this part of the world. (There! I made it relevant by mentioning a holiday that falls in February.) But we don’t live in Japan—or at least I don’t—and neither does the complaining radio listener.
For some folks—perhaps for most—Christmas is simply another holiday, a Winter celebration, an exchange of gifts, a thoroughly commercial event. But there are those of us who know, along with Dr. Seuss’ Grinch, that Christmas “‘doesn’t come from a store.’” On the other hand, it also means more than being filled with good cheer and singing songs about snow and sleigh rides.
In the same way, Easter doesn’t come from a basket. Christmas is the time when persons of faith mark the beginning of a remarkable life—the life of Christ. Easter is when we mark the end of that life—and the events that came afterward. And all through the year, we celebrate and learn from the time in between, a life filled with prayer and pain, faith and forgiveness, beatitudes and betrayal. Jesus’ birth was miraculous. So was his resurrection. And the life he lived in between was no less miraculous. There are those who say that only Jesus’ death matters but for me this misses the point. Throughout his life on Earth, he healed the sick and lame, taught those who would listen, and forgave those who acknowledged their sins. He serves as an example of the way we should live our own lives (John 13:15, 1 Pet. 2:21). Each day he touched lives and he continues to touch mine. I pray that he touches yours as well.
This year, Easter will take place in mid April. For many, it will be a time of chicks and chocolate, bunnies and bonnets. It will be the beginning of Spring. For some, it will be a time to be in church. It will be a time for all those things for us as well. But for us it will be only a part of the year’s faith journey, only a part of the celebration of a remarkable life, an amazing death, and a glorious resurrection. It will be the celebration of one who proclaimed, “‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.’” (John 11:25b-26a ESV). Through his own death and resurrection, Christ purchased our salvation and eternal life. The apostle Peter wrote, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,” (1 Pet. 1:3 ESV).
There are people who are “missing out,” who don’t understand what the fuss is about. They didn’t understand Christmas and they don’t understand Easter. They don’t really understand Jesus at all. But we do. And if we do, then we have an obligation to share that understanding with those who don’t.
“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. . . . that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” (Phil. 3:8, 10-11 ESV.)