Do They Know It’s Easter?
Northern Churchman Comments
The single frame cartoon displayed the title: ‘What Easter is about’. It showed a variety of seasonal scenes and pictures each of which was shaped like a letter of the alphabet. When you looked at the whole thing, the shape of these images spelled out the word ‘Chocolate’.
To the world at large, Easter is a bit odd. Why does the date shift somewhere between March and April every year? Why not give Easter Sunday a fixed date in the calendar, like Christmas? The prospect of chocolate eggs, yummy as they are, does not thrill the secular heart as much as the partying and present-giving of Yuletide.
Easter is not the Christian festival of choice in our culture. Christmas is more acceptable. It’s about a birth, we can relate to that. Everyone is born, and everyone has celebrated a birthday; the basic story is well within our experience. Jesus appears more manageable at Christmastime. He is only a baby, not as threatening or disturbing as the man he became. We can coo in at the cradle once a year, paying tribute with a hearty carol or two, and not have to think any more about him until next December.
But the Jesus of Easter brings a more unsettling message to society. We are presented with a death on Good Friday, a reminder of our mortality, even before we think about what the death of Jesus means for our lives. One thing the Covid-19 crisis illustrated was how fearful our society is of dying; people are scared to death of death. It must be averted at all costs. If only we had a established Church whose leaders could have reminded people at the time that death is not the greatest disaster that could befall a person. What a powerful national conversation could have been had on what life is and where it is to be found.
Death, sin, judgement, sacrifice, salvation – these themes are heavy ingredients to add to a celebratory mix. They spoil the party atmosphere. No wonder Christmas is preferred to Easter. All the more so when we come to Easter Sunday itself. A tomb is empty, a dead man appears alive. That is totally beyond our experience; the story of a special birth is just within our reach and understanding, but this is a step too far for many people.
The story of Easter is much more challenging in its implications. If Jesus is the man who stepped out of his grave, then there is a life beyond this life, there is a God who raised him: the God he made known in his life. It means Jesus was no ordinary man, he has power beyond ours, even authority over death itself. It means this world is not as random as we like to imagine, there is someone in control even over the things we cannot control. It means we ought to acknowledge that authority, that we are accountable beings. We cannot outrun or escape that uncomfortable truth.
How much easier it is to sing ‘We Wish You a Merry Christmas’ and think of the Christian faith as a story for the children. A much more comfortable and convenient thought – and a Happy New Year!
Yet to Christians, the events of Holy Week and Easter are much more important as red letter days. Here is the heart of our faith; here is God’s love made known fully and finally, here is our life, our hope, our forgiveness and our rescue. The death and resurrection of Jesus can never be dismissed or diminished.
The difference between these two calendars reveals the difference between the Christian believer and one who is yet a stranger to Christ. Is the Gospel good news to your life? The challenge for all who belong to Christ remains, how do we show people the life-giving and life-changing importance of Easter?