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Easter is. Joan Chittister makes this point perfectly clear in The Liturgical Year:

Christmas simply commemorates, not celebrates, the historical birth of Jesus, whenever that might have been. Because of Christmas, the life of Jesus was possible. Because of Christmas, the Incarnation can be fulfilled at Easter. Because of Christmas, the humanity of Jesus is fact. But the birth of Jesus is not the central meaning of the faith. On the contrary, it is the death and Resurrection of Jesus that are the core of Christianity. The liturgical year is, then, actually about Easter. (53-54)

One reason this is important is that it reveals just how profoundly distorted the secular glorification of Christmas actually is. Sure, the media covers Easter when it rolls around, but let’s face it—when it comes to American culture at large, Christmas is where it’s at. The crass commercialization of the holiday is just the surface representation of a much deeper—and I would argue, willful—misunderstanding of the Christ story.

Our culture is more than happy to give Jesus face time at Christmas because Baby Jesus is a safe Jesus. A cute Jesus. A gentle Jesus. A domesticated Jesus. A Jesus that makes no demands. Never mind that the infancy narratives of the Gospels (especially Matthew) anticipate Jesus’ own suffering when Herod orders the baby boys in Bethlehem to be murdered (an event remembered during the Feast of the Holy Innocents in the liturgical year).

Christmas, as it’s generally understood, is not the focus of the Christian faith. It’s merely the first stop on the way to Easter, a path that takes us through Jesus’ Passion and on to the Resurrection, an event that asks us to reexamine Jesus’ life and our lives in light of God’s radical in-breaking into the world. But make no mistake—amid all the bell jingling and toy buying, that’s the last thing the culture wants you to think about.

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