In Layman's Terms: Easter people celebrating Christmas
I’m convinced Christmas is such a festive time of year because of the atmosphere that accompanies it.
The lights on houses and along city streets remind us of the light — Jesus — coming into the world. Christmas trees become a focal point in our homes. Nativity scenes remind us of the reason for the season. Carols prompt us to break out singing, regardless of whether or not we can carry a tune. And we get to see Rudolph, Frosty, the Grinch, Buddy the Elf, and George Bailey on our TV screens.
Indeed, this time of year is important to those of us who proudly proclaim that we are Christians. The birth of the Christ child to a virgin provides the miraculous beginning for what we acknowledge as the greatest story ever told.
So it’s been interesting the past few weeks as I’ve prepared Sunday school lessons, read devotions and, in some cases, just run across things as I’ve scanned social media and other forms of media that I keep coming across scripture and references that we traditionally link with the other high holy day in the Christian faith: Easter.
I think God’s been putting Easter on my heart in the midst of Christmas.
For example, as part of my Sunday school class’ series on Advent, I had a thought that perhaps a good way to start would be to look at the prophecies about a coming Messiah. I’ve written before about a book titled “Isaiah 53 Explained,” by Mitch Glaser, a messianic Jew who has made sharing his belief that Jesus is the promised Messiah to others of his ethnicity and culture.
I had read Isaiah 53 before, but it took on new life for me reading this Easter-season kind of scripture amid the Christmas decorations with which my wife so ably and beautifully adorned our home.
Isaiah 53 is not a joy-filled passage, at least at first glance. It talks of rebellion, torment, injustice and anguish — not quite the tone set by visions of silver bells, holly, Santa, snowmen and mistletoe. Verses 10b-12 say:
If his life is offered as restitution,
he will see his offspring; he will enjoy long life.
The Lord’s plans will come to fruition through him.
After his deep anguish he will see light, and he will be satisfied.
Through his knowledge, the righteous one, my servant,
will make many righteous,
and will bear their guilt.
Therefore, I will give him a share with the great,
and he will divide the spoil with the strong,
in return for exposing his life to death
and being numbered with rebels,
though he carried the sin of many
and pleaded on behalf of those who rebelled.
“The Lord’s plans will come to fruition through him.”
I keep coming back to that simple sentence from verse 10. God’s plan is executed — for our sakes — through, well, an execution.
But before a life can be taken, a life has to begin. And that’s what this season is all about. Jesus left Heaven — many of us envision it as paradise — to live among us. He endured the pains and trials of this earth just as you and I do. But He did so with a purpose, to see the Lord’s plan come to fruition.
Because of our sinful nature, we need atonement. We don’t deserve it, and we can’t earn it. God gives us the gift of grace, of reconciliation with our Creator, through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
I guess what I’m saying is that, in a way, even Easter is about birth. Jesus conquered death that first Easter morning. Think about it for just a moment. If the women who went to anoint Jesus’ body that morning had walked up to a stone still in place and a body laying inside, there would be no Christianity. There would be no church. But thanks to resurrection — a rebirth — Jesus and that first group of followers who spoke with the risen Savior in the days after this miracle moved beyond Israel and launched a worldwide movement that now falls to all of us to continue.
So let’s not waste the opportunity to share the joy that comes with this story of resurrection, first for Jesus and, through his sacrifice, for all of us. Let’s not sit back and leave it to someone else to proclaim this good news to a world filled with rebellion, torment, injustice and anguish — just as in the days of the prophet Isaiah and in the days Jesus walked this earth in his three years of ministry.
And it all starts with a baby, born and placed in a manger.
Let’s remember that this festive season.
May we share with others that we celebrate Christmas because we are an Easter people.
Todd Seifert is communications director for the Great Plains Conference of the United Methodist Church. He can be reached via phone at 785-414-4224, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Opinions expressed are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Great Plains Annual Conference or the United Methodist Church. Follow him on Twitter, @ToddSeifert.