By Barbara Rainey
I’m thankful for the incarnation, for the warm cuddly images of Baby Jesus. But without the cross, Christmas would mean nothing. Yet it’s Christmas that gets all our attention.
My attic declares the over indulgence by the number of plastic bins stacked one on another. Does yours too?
Like the sudden appearing of a rabbit in early spring, Easter sneaks up on us as we are recovering from Christmas’ excess. January resolutions embracing both weight loss regimens and household purging trips to Good Will remind us we are done with big celebrations until next year.
But Easter’s timing close on the heels of Christmas is not the only reason this holiday sneaks up.
Easter is not about a birth, but a death, which begs the question, when was the last time you wanted to gaze on a bloody, mangled body? Is the thought even too much?
Instinctively our stomachs churn, faces contort, our voices moan at even the idea of such a sight. We turn away. It’s too much to absorb.
But a newborn babe? Ahhhh … we smile, emit sounds of delight, and willingly gaze into that beautiful face with snuggle-worthy sweet cheeks. Our hearts long to drink in the newness, the hope wrapped in downy soft newborn flesh.
Do you feel the difference?
This is the conundrum of our Christian faith—that Jesus was born to die. The innocence of His birth stayed with Him to His last breath on the cross. There He hung—naked, tortured—and there He died. Willingly He endured all of this for us because of infinite love.
Even though we understand Easter’s facts, we eagerly anticipate and prefer Christmas. The story of the teenage virgin who bravely birthed a tiny baby king is a much happier one.
By contrast we falter at knowing how to celebrate Easter. The necessity of a blood sacrifice isn’t welcome in daily conversation. The sweetness of the Christmas babe being lullabied by His angelic choir is easier to embrace.
We, the redeemed, have wrongly reversed our affections.
Most of us give Easter little thought, time, or preparation. We take a minimalist approach to celebrating the greatest event of history. Like the blind following the blind Christians have adopted the lead of retailers and their softer, gentler symbols for Easter: bunnies, chicks, chocolate candies in colorful plastic eggs, and wearing new pastel clothing.
We ignore what Jesus commanded us to do--remember His death (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). He never asked us to commemorate His birth. We are not following our Savior’s instructions.
How can we reverse this upside-down thinking?
Here are four ways to begin to correct our upended thinking. I believe it’s time to change how we celebrate Easter; and I hope you will agree.
1. Lengthen the Easter holiday experience. Make Easter a season, like Christmas, by starting your Easter preparation with Ash Wednesday and continuing through the 40 days of Lent. By preparing earlier you will have more time to focus on, and teach your family about, Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. And don’t stop celebrating the Resurrection after Easter Sunday! Many leave Christmas lights up through the New Year, so why not continue the joy of this life changing event by repeating, “Christ is risen!” daily for the 40 days until Ascension Day!
2. In your home, fully display the importance of this holiest of holidays. The colors of Easter are red, white, and gold; not springy hues of pink, yellow, and lime green. Remember His blood, the color of red wine, His risen appearance which was dazzling white, and His victory worthy of a crown of gold! This year consider wearing all white or shades of off-white and soft khaki on Easter Sunday. Set an all-white table with lots of white candles for your Resurrection Day feast to remember the purity of His life and death. Or center your table with a white lamb to celebrate our future as His bride at our marriage to the Lamb when we will be dressed in “fine linen, bright and pure—for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints” (Revelation 19:8).
3. Worship with exuberance what Christ has done for us on Resurrection Sunday. Can you imagine what the women who went to the tomb felt when they saw Jesus alive? What about the disciples, and the multitudes? Like a groom who first sees his bride, I imagine beaming faces, tears of happiness, pure delight, and overflowing joy.
And I picture dancing. Psalm 149:3 invites us to “Praise His name with dancing, making melody to Him with tambourine and lyre!” This is the kind of worship the Resurrection calls for. Does your Easter day look like this? It should. St. Augustine wrote, “Learn to dance, so when you get to heaven the angels know what to do with you.” I want to be ready. Will you join me?
4. Celebrate the sacrifice and miracle of Easter with others. When we understand more of the immensity of His sacrifice, our gratitude will lead to a celebration—with laughter and music and feasting—far surpassing that of Christmas.
Get creative! Make your Easter party grand, and if weather permits, have your lunch or dinner feast outside with lights and music and revelry. Invite friends and neighbors just as we do at Christmas. Easter, the celebration of the cross and Resurrection, should be a time of contagious, overflowing evangelism.
N.T.Wright wrote, “Easter is about the wild delight of God’s creative power … we ought to shout Alleluias instead of murmuring them. We should light every candle instead of only some. Is it any wonder people find it hard to believe in the resurrection of Jesus if we don’t throw our hats in the air? This is our greatest festival. Take Christmas away and in biblical terms you lose two chapters at the front of Matthew and Luke. Take Easter away and you don’t have a New Testament; you don’t have Christianity.”
The Incarnation and Resurrection are inseparably linked. Our celebrations of these miraculous events need to be proportionate and more balanced in our focus and attention. Don’t shy away from Easter, instead elevate it to the status it deserves. Your faith and that of others will benefit.
Will I ever have as large a stack of bins in my attic for Easter? I am working toward more balance and hope to elevate it to the status it deserves in our family.
Awed by the cross, Easter truly is my favorite holiday.
I hope you’ll join me and others in focusing on the miraculous wonders of Easter and become #easterpeople too! The heart of Christianity is not what we must do, but what He has done! For us!
Christ is risen!
Christ is risen indeed!
PS. For lots of ideas to come to help you keep watching the blog or go to everthinehome.com/easter.