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Little Rock Connections: The Good News for Today
April 2017

Choosing between Christmas and Easter

Choosing between Christmas and Easter

Clifford M. Yeary

Do you have a favorite holiday? Based on how much I miss the departed members of my family, I would want to return to a Thanksgiving Day of my childhood, if I could. To me, Thanksgiving Day is a true reminder that the English word “holiday” derives from the words “holy day.”

And speaking of holy days, let’s look at the two biggest Christian ones in terms of their religious importance. Which holy day seems most important, Christmas or Easter?

At Christmas we celebrate the incarnation of our Lord. The core reason for celebrating Christmas is that God the Son took on human flesh and was born of the Virgin Mary. Actually, we don’t know for sure what day of what year he was born. We do know, however, that he was born, and since he is, as John 8:12 says, “the light of the world,” the most appropriate time to celebrate his birth is approximately that time of year when we (in the northern hemisphere) most long for light in the midst of the earth’s long, long nights. Perhaps it is equally appropriate that southern hemisphere Christians celebrate the birth of the light of the world when the light of the sun stays longest in their sky. As we say in the Nicene Creed, he is truly “light from light.”

Easter is often presented as the holiest of Christian feasts because it is the feast of the resurrection. The resurrection of Christ is also God’s promise that we, too, will rise from the dead. There is no greater hope for Christians than to be raised to eternal life in Christ.

There is a very strong argument for believing that Easter is our most important holy day. Christ rose from the dead after dying on the cross because of our sinfulness. The reality of sin in our lives is such that it would, if left unforgiven, prevent us from ever entering an eternal, life-giving relationship with our Creator. But when the evil that afflicts the entire human race sent Jesus Christ to the cross, it only resulted in God’s determination to make his death and subsequent resurrection the source of our forgiveness and the source of our salvation. Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is the heart of the good news of our salvation.

Easter was the first “holy day” to become a fixture of annual Christian celebration. There is solid evidence that Easter was celebrated regularly by the middle of the second century. In fact, almost all Christians have preserved Sunday as our official day of worship because Christ rose from the dead on a Sunday. Sunday as the day of Christian gathering is attested to in Acts 20:7 and First Corinthians 16:2. Christmas, however, did not become an official church holy day until sometime in the fourth century.

Over the course of the many centuries since Christ’s birth, however, the importance of the incarnation to Christian theology has grown significantly. That God, in Christ, chose to become part of creation is beyond the capacity of human imagination to deal with, but some of our greatest theologians have dealt with it as best they could.

In the late thirteenth century, the Franciscan John Duns (Duns Scotus) became the first to maintain in writing that God would have entered creation as a human being even if no one had ever sinned. The incarnation, he claimed, was part of God’s eternal plan. His belief is not official doctrine, but the church has never disclaimed it either. What our faith does teach us, however, is that the incarnation, once it occurred, is an eternal phenomenon. In Christ, God has become part of creation and that will remain eternally true.

What seems most significant about that in terms of our salvation is that it transforms the meaning of the resurrection of the dead. We don’t just get to live again, our resurrection will be a share in Christ’s own resurrection. When we speak of entering eternal life, that life is God’s own life. As we read in Second Peter 1:4, “He has bestowed on us the precious and very great promises, so that through them you may come to share in the divine nature.”

In terms of their importance to us, it makes no sense to pit Christmas and Easter against each other. They are united together forever in the one Christ, and it is Christ in us that is our hope for glory (Col 1:27).

Clifford M. Yeary is associate director of Little Rock Scripture Study and author of these books published by Liturgical Press: Pilgrim People, Welcome to the Feast: The Story of the Eucharist in Scripture, and the upcoming Hail Mary, Holy Bible.

This month, April, will see the publication of two new volumes of Alive in the Word.

Hospitality, Welcoming the Stranger, explores three biblical scenes that encourage us to be people of welcome. Hospitality was a hallmark of the ancient Mediterranean world and, according to St. Paul, is among the characteristics to be found in the Body of Christ, the church. True hospitality begins with the recognition of human dignity and the desire to respond effectively to human need. Written by Catherine Upchurch, director of Little Rock Scripture Study, this is part of the Virtues for Disciples series.

Empty Nest, Time for Letting Go, is a good companion for parents who find themselves alone after their children or loved ones move out of the house. These prayerful reflections on the Joseph story, the incarnation, and the last discourse of Jesus offer comfort and challenge to anyone with an empty nest. Written by Thomas D. Sauline, DMin, who serves as a diocesan consultant for religious education in the Diocese of Youngstown, this is part of the Seasons of Our Lives series.

A new series of articles written by Catherine Upchurch and Clifford Yeary is available online in Spanish and English. Blessed Are You: The Beatitudes (Dichosos Ustedes: Las Bienaventuranzas) explores perhaps the most well-known verses from the Sermon on the Mount. These articles are free for your use – stuff them in parish bulletins, provide the link on your parish website, use them for faith sharing in your parish council or men’s club or women’s auxiliary or PTO. The possibilities are endless. Our thanks to The Arkansas Catholic and the Diocese of Little Rock for publishing and posting these articles.

We’d love to hear from you about your experiences using Little Rock Scripture Study or Alive in the Word. Visit our Facebook page to post your comments or contact us directly by email at

For more information about workshops, Little Rock Connections, or to offer suggestions, or submit items, please contact:
Little Rock Scripture Study
PO Box 7565
Little Rock, AR 72217

Little Rock Scripture Study

Little Rock Scripture Study, PO Box 7565, Little Rock, AR 72217-7565
Liturgical Press, 2950 Saint John's Road, PO Box 7500, Collegeville, MN 56321
Phone: 1.800.858.5434 or 320.363.2213
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