Easter. Bunnies and chocolate, egg hunts and beautiful dresses.
Easter. A time of renewal as spring is fully here.
Easter. Family feasting.
includes all of these cultural expressions, some rooted in ancient
spring rituals that antedate Christianity. The word itself originates
with fertility deities celebrating new life. Other practices are the
creations of brilliant marketeers.
billions throughout history and around the world, however, Easter is
about the most important event in human history: the bodily resurrection
of Jesus of Nazareth. His crucifixion on Good Friday is a mere
martyrdom without this divine affirmation of triumph over death. In
First Corinthians, chapter 15, the Apostle Paul, himself a former
persecutor of the church, declares that without the resurrection of
Jesus, the entirety of the Christian faith is in vain and founded on a
lie. Without the resurrection, there is no hope in our future or present
as we confront evil and suffering – we might as well, “eat, drink and
be merry, for tomorrow we die” (a famous Epicurean saying rooted in the
denial of life after death).
all the chocolate and flowers, billions of Christians will declare, “He
is Risen!” and respond with, “He is Risen, indeed!” this confession is
at the core of the faith and ultimately, this belief is what splits
history into BCE and CE or BC and AD…before Christ and “in the year of
our Lord” (or “before the common era and the common era).
resurrection declares that Jesus’ death is full of meaning: the
forgiveness and sins and bearing of sicknesses, sorrows and undeserved
suffering. Justice and love meet perfectly as the Incarnate One bears
the penalty and shame for all human sin. But death does not win! The
resurrection is also the preview of our human future as we see our
destiny when the world is fully restored. Such hope, empowered by the
Holy Spirit, inspires our acts of love and justice today.
enjoy Easter in all its expressions…and remember that the essence of
Easter is hope in Christ and an invitation to new life that is not mere
pagan celebration, but spiritual transformation.
Celebrating Advent and enjoying the Christmas
Season warrants reflection of the love of God in Jesus and our response
to this grace through our love for one another. Sometimes this requires
some unlearning. Here are some historical reflections that can help us
and Joseph were not poor and homeless. They were artisans and small
business owners that needed temporary shelter during the census.
were despised by much of society and represented the poor and humble.
How wonderful that they are given revelation of God’s glory in the
humility of Jesus!
Magi from the East arrived about 18 months after the birth of Jesus and
their caravan probably had 40-50 people. It was a major moment of honor
and King Herod, already paranoid and powerful, was deeply threatened.
Interestingly, Christmas was not a universal Holiday in the USA until later in the 19th
C. the combination of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s hearty
celebrations imported from Germany and the marketing of Sears and
Coca-Cola with Santa helped tipped the scales toward joyful gift
is a season of celebration and reflection as we consider the holy
humility of our Lord and the promise of peace in his coming to us. May
we welcome him with open hearts and extend open hands to our neighbors.
In the comic strip Peanuts, Charlie Brown is lamenting that Linus will have to go to school twice as long as others…in order to unlearn everything big sister Lucy (mis)taught him! This humorous aside reveals something important: sometimes we have to shed wrong ideas in order to understand the truth of any matter.
The Advent Season and celebration of Christmas is a wonderful time to reflect on the Incarnation of the Almighty, the arrival of Jesus as God with us. We are astonished at the mystery of Mother Mary nursing her Creator and Redeemer. We offer our worship as we join with the angelic hosts proclaiming peace with the birth of our Lord and Savior. As we, like Mary, treasure in our hearts the profound truth that the crèche of Bethlehem will soon yield to the Cross of Calvary as Jesus atones for the sins of all humankind.
It is also fitting that we unlearn a few things about this moment in history:
- Joseph, Mary and Jesus were not homeless and poor. They we returning to their ancestral home for the census and found overcrowded conditions leading to modest lodgings in a barn. Jesus’ upbringing would be classified today as an artisan, small business owner or working class.
- The Wise Men from the East arrived about 18 months after the birth of Jesus in an entourage of scores of people. These were Persian leaders and scholars alerted to Messiah’s birth by heavenly signs.
- Christmas as a Christian holiday has been controversial from the 4th C to the present, with many rejecting its materialism and syncretism with winter solstice celebrations. As late as the mid-19th century, many churches and even states in the USA has no official Christmas Holiday!
- Jesus is born in a geography that was a crossroads of the continents and cultures. Though considered a country backwater by the Roman Empire, Judea was in fact a place of deep learning and tradition in Judaism as well as a locale where the Greek was the marketplace language and Roman Law provided stability.
Celebrating Christmas is good. Adapting local cultural expressions into Christian worship is accepted by most around the world. As we enjoy this Season, it is fitting to renew our covenant with the Lord and share this Good News with a confused and rebellious world.