Does Christmas deserve its immense place on the Christian calendar? Besides the obvious perk of giving and receiving gifts, baking cookies, and eating large meals with family, does the religious significance of the holiday carry enough weight and significance on its own?
One would think that Easter, the feast of Christ’s Resurrection, trumps Christ’s birthday.
And then one could be wrong.
While reading up on atonement theories (as in, the way salvation works relating to Good Friday and Easter), I came across the Eastern Orthodox view. They don’t mess around with the specific mechanics of the actual salvation act, but instead look to the incarnation of Christ–the birth of God as a human–as the key moment in salvation history where God came down to save us. A writer from the Antiochian Christian Diocese says:
The Eastern Christian places the greatest importance upon the religious aspects of this great Feast Day. It is to the Eastern mind — a day for rejoicing, because on this day, he [or she] has received his [or her] opportunity for Eternal Salvation with God in Heaven (antiochian.org).
This goes beyond trying to celebrate Good Friday or Easter on Christmas. Christ taking a place among his creation changes everything. Jesus did not just come to die and rise again. He came to bring God’s Kingdom to earth, and the cross and resurrection were key parts of that larger mission.
Christmas celebrates the inauguration of Christ’s mission, the coming of God’s rule to earth.