Friday, April 7, 2023

Christmas and Its Secular Cousin: Easter

Let's be honest here.  Christmas is now a holiday in a parallel universe.  You can have a tree, pretty ornaments and lights, colorful decorations, beautifully crafted outdoor displays and indoor decorating and lots and lots of shopping for the "perfect gift."

There you have it:  Christmas without Christ.

The universe this "holiday" (as described above) occupies is one of enjoying all the trimmings, without any of its deeper meaning. It's been rebranded as a time of gathering together families and friends; eating and drinking merrily and then going home with an armload of gifts.

Many people will be standing in a line at Walmart soon after, seeking a refund for a gift that they really didn't want, but made a big deal over it to Grandma days before.  Why keep a gift from someone when it's all about what you want?  The after Christmas sales will lure buyers with even better deals than all the pre-Christmas sales did.  

There you have it:  Christmas without Christ.

People drive by a church's nativity, with lighted plastic figures in it, maybe noticing it, maybe not.  The real destination is those neighborhoods alight with Disneyland-like decorations that wow and amaze the cars' passengers.  

Then comes Easter a scant few months later.  Now Easter has joined it holiday cousin in the parallel universe of secularized holidays.  Eggs, bunnies, chicks, wreaths, ham dinners, gift baskets and  gathering together (without the guilt-tripping that Christmas brings if you can't make it).  

There you have it: Easter without Christ.

The message of Christmas, Immanuel's ("God with us") invasion into a sin-steeped planet, and Easter, where Immanuel took on that very planet's sins, bore them, shed His blood over them, and gave freedom to those who ask Him, is the core of Easter. 

But that message is lost to the ruler of this world's endless effort to drive Christianity to the margins of Western culture.

Once something is marginalized, it is far easier to eliminate it.  That is what I am seeing today. 

Society tolerated, for a long time, both aspects of the holiday to coexist:  You could have the tree and gifts, but you could also go to church and sing carols about the Messiah and the Three Wise Men. 

This was the Christmas of my childhood.  We had the tree, gifts, but there was something deeper, something more meaningful, that gently lingered in the air throughout the festivities.  I didn't grow up in a Christian family, but the Christian aroma of the US in the 50's and early 60's permeated the holiday and gave it a sweetness not seen in the guilt-tripping and greedy holiday of today.

Even when I was young, Easter was harder to celebrate, given the enormity of the crucifixion, even in a nation that still saw Christianity in a positive light. My friends all got Easter baskets, filled with candy and toys.  My parents did not participate in that; they obviously saw that such things somehow collided with Easter's true message. 

Now, Easter is lost, right along with Christmas.  I use Walmart as a gauge as to the secularization descent; every year, less and less Christian-themed items are featured in their multiple aisles of Easter stuff.  The other day, I didn't see really anything.  I live in Idaho, which is not an exactly a hotbed of progressive thought; but alas, money must be made, and all of the secular frou-frou is far more profitable than crosses and "He is Risen" plaques. 

Easter is ugly compared to Christmas.  Everyone loves a baby and what is more endearing than a mother holding her little son?  There's that manger with its cute animals, adoring parents, wee baby and  those great men who show up in lovely robes, bearing gifts. 

But Easter is ugly: It has crowds shouting, "Crucify him!" and the beating, tortures and mockery of a Man who just stands there, knowing this is why He came.  He talks to the Roman governor, who at least has a modicum of curiosity.  He is silent before a corrupted king, who mocks Him. 

Neither man saw Immanuel: He was lost in their politics, their hatred and their blindness to the workings of God.  The ruler of this world was in hysterics, and Holy Week was going to end just the way he wanted it to:  with death, destruction and defeat.  

The cross made the ruler of this world rejoice, for the Light of the World had been extinguished.  This ruler had triumphed in the Garden of Eden and he was going to triumph again. 

But he was wrong. Dead wrong. 

The Light of the World prevailed!  Easter is glorious, as we push away the eggs, bunnies and all the things that obscure and demean it.  The cross, the shroud and the empty tomb declare, "Immanuel!"

We cry in response, "Death:  Where is your sting?"  

The grave is not final; there is life and that abundantly, to be found in Immanuel--for truly, by asking Him into our hearts, God is with us.  

Let this video draw you into Easter and its message of redemption and hope that is in Him, and because of Him:

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