This Easter Sunday my family and I will be on a plane flying home from a vacation in San Francisco. When we planned the trip, we thought that an extra day of vacation would be worth not being able to go to church on Easter Sunday. Although we knew that it was not ideal to miss the Easter service, we wanted to make the most of our limited time visiting some of our dearest friends. It was a difficult decision and after we had booked the flights, I started having second thoughts. I called the airlines to see if it was possible to switch our return to Saturday. The change fee was outrageous, so we resigned ourselves to spending Easter Sunday on the plane.
As these plans continued to bother me, I asked myself: would I have ever booked a flight for Christmas morning? No, I would not have even considered it. I would never plan to travel on Christmas morning because it is too important to me to be able to celebrate such a special day with friends and family. I look forward to our family traditions and spending time together as we rejoice in the miraculous birth of Christ. As I sorted through all of this, I realized that both my thoughts and my actions clearly reflected that I give more significance to Christmas than I do to Easter.
And yet, in terms of the relative importance of Christian holidays, Easter really is the most important day of the year in the Christian calendar. It is the climax of everything that Christianity is about. Christ’s birth is just the beginning of God’s amazing plan to redeem His people and restore our relationship to Him. It is in Christ’s death and resurrection that we are given life, not merely in Christ’s birth. But for some reason, Christmas has somehow surpassed Easter in terms of relative importance to me. As someone who tries to be thoughtful about my faith, I could now see that this was something that I was really getting wrong. I was missing Easter, the important day in which we have the opportunity to celebrate God’s incredible grace in Christ.
I suspect that much of the reason for my priority of Christmas over Easter has to do with the cultural aspects of the holiday. Yes, Christmas is about the birth of Christ, but it is also about spending time with family, giving and receiving gifts, and participating in family rituals that may have been passed down from generation to generation. There is an expectation each year of how Christmas day will be spent. Although I got an Easter basket each year and we usually had an egg hunt, there weren’t nearly the family traditions surrounding this holiday. Both days have always been spiritual holidays in my mind, but I think that I have let these cultural aspects of Christmas usurp the spiritual significance of these two days and confuse my thinking as to their relative importance.
Now, I’m not saying that I’m against Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. On the contrary, I believe that tradition and ritual can add meaning to our lives. But it is good to be aware of the impact of cultural influence and to focus primarily on the spiritual significance of these days.
How can I start giving Easter the spiritual attention that it deserves? First, I need to recognize that Easter is, in fact, the pinnacle of all that Christianity is about. It was not just Christ’s birth that brought new life to each of us; it was in Christ’s death and resurrection that we have all been saved. When Christ died on the cross and rose on Easter morning, the debt of our sin was paid and our relationship with God was restored. God’s grace and forgiveness was extended to us through Christ’s death.
It’s what Christ did on the cross that changed my life forever. I should be celebrating this event more than any other day of the year. If my theology is sound and I am focused on all that Christ did, I will surely not miss Easter.
There are spiritual practices that can be helpful in focusing on the importance of Easter. Many people practice Lent, which is essentially designed to prepare our hearts for Easter. Giving up something or taking on some spiritual practice for the forty days leading up to Easter can serve as a reminder of all that Christ has done for us. If Lent is practiced as a way of focusing our attention, rather than simply accomplishing tasks to make us feel more holy, it can be valuable. Reading Scripture that recounts the story of Christ’s death and resurrection throughout the weeks leading up to Easter can also be beneficial.
Recognizing that this is a holy season and spending more time than usual in prayer and reflection can help us to be more fully present and focused on Christ on Easter morning.
In addition to increasing a spiritual awareness of the significance of Easter, it can also be helpful to establish family rituals that accompany Easter. Just as your family may have certain things that they do every Christmas, an Easter celebration can also bring continuity and significance. Ritual brings meaning to daily life. Establishing family rituals can help mark Easter as a special day, giving us something to look forward to and depend on. These rituals can include certain foods that are served, a particular religious service that is attended (such as a sunrise service), and a gathering of friends or family. For some, the inclusion of cultural traditions may distract from the spiritual significance of the day. But for others, incorporating these cultural traditions into a spiritual holiday only add to the meaning and celebration of the day.
Next year I will be making Easter a priority on our calendar. I will begin to establish Easter traditions for our family. I will give this special day the attention that it deserves. In the meantime, my family and I will be as creative as we can be about still focusing on Christ’s resurrection on Easter morning. I regret that we did not prioritize celebrating Easter this year, but I’m thankful that this situation has brought to my attention how much I’ve been missing Easter.