READY: What’s the big deal about Easter?
Along with my fellow hypocrites and sinners, I’ll be going to Easter services. As a holier-than-thou church lady, I’ve been known to chide folks who attend worship only on Christmas and Easter, believing they’ve done their spiritual duty, and God should really be thrilled about it. But, I confess, like any other defective Christian, I could think of some dandy excuses for being a Christmas-Easter church-goer. In fact, it’s all too easy to justify NOT “assembling together as the custom is” (Hebrews 10:25).
It’s raining. I have out-of-town company. I work hard all week and need my Sunday morning sleep. Somebody at church hurt my feelings. All they want at church is my money. The music is too “this” or too “that.” The excuse list is endless.
But the topic is Easter, so enough of that thread.
The word Easter is mentioned only once in the Bible (Acts 12:4). However, it doesn’t occur in the original Greek scriptures. Instead, it was used in the King James Version simply to refer to a timeframe during the observance of Passover. Somehow the word Easter became contrived from the Hebrew word Pesach, which means “passing over.” I don’t think any other translation of the Bible makes a reference to Easter. The actual name came presumably from some pagan goddess of fertility: Eastre, Ishtar, or Eostre.
I’ve been thinking about why we make such a fuss about Easter anyway. Why is the hope and peace we celebrate during the Christmas and Easter seasons limited to December or springtime? It should be a 365 day- to- day attitude as we take delight in God’s beautiful world whether it’s dressed in pink azaleas or robed in a winter sunset over our emerald gulf waters.
Not limited to March or April, Easter may come on any day when our souls are empty, and our hearts are broken by loss. We weep beside the grave of a loved one and forget in our grief that the tomb which paid our debt of sin stood empty with the ascension of the Savior. In that moment, we stand in the presence of a great mystery, which our tiny understanding cannot grasp. His words, “Into Thy hands, I commend My spirit” still echo through the ages, whispering to the hearts of those in pain. When the fragile fabric of our lives is unraveling, we can look to that empty tomb and know Easter has come in that moment even if it’s not a lovely spring Sunday. Instead, it may come on a dark and rainy Thursday in February. We may feel the comforting brush of an angel and remember Easter’s promise of everlasting life for those who believe. It is then we quit fretting about the old ghosts and trivialities in our lives and celebrate Easter as a day of resurrection for both the living and the dead.
So, if there is any “big deal” about Easter, it is the resurrection message of 2,000 years ago which is still as fresh and green as spring itself. It is the great mystery of how tragedy is transformed into triumph, how death is transformed into life.
In the last few years, I’ve come to a different understanding of what Easter is and more importantly, what it is not. It’s not about a new dress. It’s not a social event. Obviously, it was never about be-ribboned bonnets, bunny rabbits, and chocolate eggs.
And what were the candy makers (Russell Stover) thinking when they created the chocolate-covered, marshmallow cross?
Like everyone else, I’m all for coloring and hunting Easter eggs, new outfits, goody-filled baskets, and bunny rabbits. It’s just that these things do not lie at the very heart of Resurrection Day.
C.S. Lewis wrote about a little boy who prayed one Easter, “Thank you for the chocolate eggs and Jesus risen.” Lewis considered the day when that child would be a man, no longer enjoying the unity of secular and spiritual. He would then choose which one to put first. He concluded, “If he puts the spiritual first, he can still taste Easter in the candy; if he puts the eggs first, they will soon become no more than any other sweetmeat.
May you taste Easter as you celebrate Jesus risen.
Mary Ready of Destin is a twice-retired English teacher and long-time area resident. Her columns are published on Saturdays.