Monday, April 09, 2012

Thoughts on Easter and Christmas

I have a cousin who is teaching in South Korea and she was surprised that they didn't celebrate Easter yesterday at church.  Apparently the same thing happened with Christmas, and so she asked these questions to some of her friends on Facebook:
So, my question is this: Do American (or western) churches benefit spiritually from the observance of these days?  or are they examples of secular influence on the church?  Please let me know your thoughts.
Here is my reply:
Here are my answers to your questions. I don't think Western churches benefit from the celebration of Easter or Christmas. The reasons for that are varied and complex, but are rooted in the reality that following Jesus is about living a life guided by the Spirit rather than about observing certain special days (part of Paul's argument in Galatians). What happens is that these days become about certain traditions rather than meaningful rest stops during the year to reflect on God and His work of redemption of creation.  
With that being said the Christmas and Easter seasons can be meaningful and spiritually important if we as individuals take the time to prepare our hearts and minds to experience the celebrations. This also it puts responsibility on Church leaders to prepare events thoughtfully and intentionally to help people move past the traditions and cliches of the seasons to focus on what is truly important.  
The last piece of this, as my brother mentioned, is Communion. The Lord's Supper is the "tradition" Jesus handed down to us to remember Him and the covenant He established with us. Even here what makes Communion a spiritually beneficial thing is how the church frames its purpose and the preparation of each individual before they take it. Paul says in 1 Corinthians that a failure to observe the Lord's Supper correctly can be an unhealthy thing. So the bottom line is that for Easter and Christmas to be spiritually beneficial it requires the thoughtful preparation of both the individual and the church.  
To answer the second question I don't think it has to do with secular influence on the church as much as it has to do with the religious spirit that seeks to elevate traditions and laws as the way to follow Jesus rather than being guided by the Spirit (part of what Paul was talking about in Galatians). Those are my thoughts, I hope they were helpful. 

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