I sincerely believe that Easter Sunday is a better holiday than Christmas. Now before clicking on to something else because you think I am crazy, read on. If you asked your kids which holiday is better, we all know the answer. It’s Christmas ten times out of ten. After all, most of us don’t start counting down days until Easter the minute Easter is over. But, without fail I see no less than a dozen memes on social media on December 26, telling me I have only 364 shopping days left. Radio stations don’t dedicate their music to strictly Easter songs in February in anticipation of our favorite spring holiday. The trees, lights, presents, etc.—you get the idea. If it’s a popularity contest, Christmas wins every time.
But I still believe Easter is better than Christmas. Far too often as Christians we easily forget that our entire Sunday worship experience is built off the first Easter Sunday. In fact, everything we believe to be true hangs by a single thread—Easter.
I made this claim a few years ago to my kids and explained my reasoning to them through a series of questions. Now to be clear, I do intend on Easter gaining much ground on the popularity of Christmas. I am not messing with the birth of Jesus. But I wanted to make sure that my family had the right perspective, reverence, and gratitude. If Christmas is about hope promised, Easter is about hope, fulfilled.
How this week different than every other week?
Easter is about more than a day. It’s a week. Jesus enters his final week of ministry and his earthly life on a donkey into Jerusalem. He knows what is about to happen, but the people have it all backwards. In their minds, if he is the promised Messiah, then he is now entering the city to claim his rightful place as king over Israel and will free them from Roman bondage and the obnoxious religious restrictions of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
This is what Palm Sunday is all about, the juxtaposition of the hope and anticipation of the people and the sadness and anxiety of Jesus. Throughout the week he does anything but the expected, yet it’s all leading up to an entirely different kind of salvation. Rather than an earthly kingdom, it’s a spiritual one. Rather than saving Israel from Rome, it’s saving her from herself (as in our sins).
How is Easter Sunday different from other Sundays?
This is literally THE Sunday of all Sunday’s. Yes, even Super Bowl Sunday. Our celebration and worship every other Sunday is because of Resurrection Sunday. The people may have hoped for an earthly kind of salvation, but the resurrection of Jesus gives us an entirely new kind of hope. The death and resurrection of Jesus is the entry way for our adoption as sons and daughters of the king, the new hope of a life to come, and the endurance from the Spirit to wait for it expectantly.
Easter Sunday is the celebration of the brief moment that heaven and earth collided to provide each of us a way out from our sin and a way to be reconciled with our Creator. Death came because of Adam, so in Adam we all die. But since Christ defeated death, we can be alive in Him.
“The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin in the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:56-57)
Why does this week become dark and sad and then end in celebration?
On the one hand we want to remember how Israel misplaced their hope in an earthly king. Remember that God told Israel before Saul was anointed Israel’s first king, they didn’t need a king, because God would be their king. Yet they wanted one anyway. Without the full picture, Israel’s hope would continue to be misplaced and misunderstood.
On the other hand, Jesus, completely human in every way except for sin, went to cross as an innocent man to take the punishment for the sins of humanity. I don’t think, in our modern culture we reflect on the magnitude of such an act enough. I think we understand it intellectually, but we don’t let its truth affect our soul. The crucifixion, properly understood, should fundamentally change our thoughts and how we choose to live.
The week leading up to and through Good Friday should provide us the opportunity to enter that moment, to sit with Jesus at the table, eat the bread, drink the wine, betray him, abandon him, and deny him. We cannot be afraid to wrestle with the likelihood that we would have faired no better than the disciples did that night. But don’t forget, we also get to discover the empty tomb.
Why on Easter Sunday do we gather with families and eat while on other Sunday’s we don’t?
Now this one may not necessarily be true for everyone, but the idea I am getting at is community and it’s time to party. The morning has come, the tomb is empty, Jesus is alive, hope is alive, and the world is forever changed. It’s time to celebrate. So naturally, we want to celebrate with as many people as we can.
Dressing up in our Easter best, having a great big meal, enjoying family and friends—all things we do when we celebrate, and Easter Sunday should be the celebrations of celebrations.
Easter Sunday is about more than just spring, eggs, bunnies, and chocolate. It’s about the Messiah who defeated death so we could have life. It’s about the manifestation of hope. It’s literally the gospel in action. Enjoy it, participate in it, and celebrate it, because, yes, it’s better than Christmas.