I am often asked by friends, as if I am a theological scholar, which day is more important… which day is to be celebrated with more vigor, Easter or Christmas? I do not know if this is a legitimate question to ask, or one that may be just appropriate for the “everyday” Christians- who tend to view the church calendar in that way- Easter time or Christmas time. But if we reflect on the question, we can find an answer. Indeed a profound answer, that may even summarize what can become- a great theological statement.
We all know that, “in the beginning… God said, ‘Let there be light.’ and there was light. God saw the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light ‘day’ and the darkness he called ‘night’. And there was an evening and there was a morning- the first day.” [Genesis 1:2-5]
Since that very first day, our lives revolve around day and night. Light and darkness. As children, we always feared the darkness. We would ask our mothers to leave a night light on. We enjoyed playing with our friends and even going to school, but we learned that when the street lights came on- night and its accompanying darkness were coming.
Night and darkness have always seemed unsettling to most of us, if not down right evil. Things become dark and uncertain. We do not see as clearly as we do “by the light of day”. The Bible even supports this theory. Genesis refers to “dreadful darkness” and a “plague of darkness”. Job warns us of “gloom and utter darkness”- a “darkness that cannot be escaped.” Indeed there are nearly thirty references to “darkness” alone in the Book of Job.
And when the world was filled with it’s great despair- in it’s darkest night, the Christ child is born. Christmas Day! The beginning of the story.
Then we have the Easter story, which is actually an end to the story– but yet a beginning. Christ suffers his passion. Unlike Christmas with it’s Advent- Eastertide come to us through Lent. A time of fasting and vigils. A time, that unlike Christmas, is somber. In Easter, Christ gives to us the gift of his Last Supper and goes with his disciples to pray- at night, in a place called Gethsemane. So late and dark was the hour that his disciples could not even stay awake. Christ is arrested and led to trial. Peter waits through a dark night, but fearfully denies knowing Jesus. Crucified, though day “a great darkness came across the land”. The world waits in darkness. Easter morning, by the glow of the predawn light, Mary Magdalene makes her way through the garden to discover the tomb empty. The glory of Easter morning- and the Resurrection of the Risen Christ!
We know bad things happen at night, in darkness. When we are uncertain. When we are afraid. Jesus even tells us, “People do not light a lamp and place it under a bowl. Instead they put it on a stand, so that it gives light to everyone that is in the house.” [Matthew 5:15] Indeed Christ knows our fear and comforts us; “I have come into the world as a light- so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” [John 12:46]
So this then is the promise of Easter. Indeed the promise of Christmas. That though we fear the darkness, the uncertainty of life- we have the promise of the Resurrection! “The Lord is my light and salvation, whom shall I fear!” [Psalm 27:1] Christ has fulfilled his promise of everlasting life and given to us the proof. His Resurrection on Easter morning is what makes us Christians! We can happily and boldly face our lives, and the unexpected bumps we will hit along the road- because we know that Christ has conquered death. He offers to us the same, if we take up his cross and follow him!
And we can do that. Without stumbling. Without falling. Without fear. Because unlike those who live in darkness, we have been saved! For Christ tells us, “Whoever follows me, will never walk in darkness! ” [John 8:12]
So the darkness is behind us. Before is the light of morning. The glorious light of Easter morning! “For God is light, in him there is no darkness at all! ” [1 John 1:5] Alleluia! Christ the Lord is risen today!
“Oh God, who for our redemption gave your only-begotten Son to the death of the cross, and by his glorious resurrection delivered us from the power of our enemy: Grant us so to die daily to sin, that we may evermore live with him in the joy of his resurrection; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.” [OCACNA Sacramentary (c) 2012 p.179]