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.
Into a small village in an obscure province of the first-century the Roman Empire, a baby is born during a census. His parents are part of the artisan class, neither “dirt poor” nor “filthy rich.” His birth sparks some local and regional interest as pious Jews in the Temple and humble shepherds declare the dawn of a Messianic Age. Babylonian and Persian scholars journey for months and honor this toddler with lavish gifts. King Herod, a despotic and paranoid appointee of Rome, reacts to a potential rival with a killing frenzy targeting under two-year-old children. Undoubtedly the census helped his soldiers carry out this inhumane task.
Jesus of Nazareth was a real historical figure and the subject of adoration and disdain, deep loyalty and religious animosity. The Gospel records offer enough tantalizing details without the exhaustive data 21st century folks crave. Jewish and Roman sources affirm his existence and importance, especially as a catalyst for a rift in Judaism. His first followers were devout Jews. Their affirmation of Jesus’ Messianic office and Lordship led to expulsion from synagogues, persecution from Roman leaders and the formation of a new faith that now includes both Jews and Gentiles as equals.
Christmas is the celebration of Jesus’ conception and birth. For his followers, it is the dawn of a new hope, the inauguration of a new age of salvation that will reach its fulfillment in Jesus’s crucifixion and bodily resurrection and its consummation with his glorious return in the future. The surprising and transformative news is that there is forgiveness of sins, empowerment for holy love and deep assurance of eternal hope available now, even as final salvation is yet to come.
The audacity of Christian hope is that all who believe enjoy favor with God and deep peace, new fellowship and a sense of divine mission right now. Our eternal security unleashes passions for purity and service. Though final redemption awaits Christ’s return, substantial “providential increases” (John Wesley) are possible today, from personal life-change to social transformations.
Let’s welcome our Lord with awe and humility, wonder and willingness to change. As we allow this real hope to permeate our lives, we join with god in the reconciling of all things.