Do you celebrate Easter, or do you celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ? Some would say this is just semantics…but are Easter and the Resurrection the same thing?
This is a tough topic, but I think it must be said. At the Church I attended on Easter we had the Easter Bunny come by and we had an egg hunt for the kiddos. We also had AWESOME music…Handel’s Alleluia Chorus, He is Risen. The Risen Lord Christ was proclaimed in the liturgy and in the word John 20:1- 18…BUT we fell short in one area…
The talking points of the sermon were these :(this is straight out of the bulletin)
Five most common regrets expressed by people
on their death beds:
1. I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
After these talking points the priest talked about the gospel. How Mary was so wrapped up in her own worries that she couldn’t see the risen Lord right in front of her.
So what’s the problem here? Everyone was happily nodding along with the points…The central message of the sermon that the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior means that we are to live a happy life without regrets. That is NOT the message of the gospel. It is my contention that when we talk about Easter, we leave room for confusion about what we really are celebrating, and why.
Back to my topic…Easter is the English/Germanic name for the Festival of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, see here for more details on the origins of the name Easter. So in theory, because Easter is just another name for the Resurrection feast there is no problem with using it. But in reality there is a deep problem. Easter as a term has lost its theological freight. We no longer associate it with the Festival of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. We associate it with plastic eggs and chocolate bunnies. There is nothing wrong with eggs and bunnies. They too have Christian origins, see here. But, rather than supplemental symbols to help us see the fullness of what Easter means for Christians, Easter eggs and Easter bunnies have stolen the show. They have been allowed to overshadow the Resurrection.
My final point for using Festival of the Resurrection, is this. Easter has become just a day. It is a holiday where nominally Christian people post “Happy Easter” or “He is Risen” on their facebook. Yet Easter has no impact on their daily lives. Its a fun family day, but its over by Monday. The candy is all discounted, and the decorations put away until next year. Easter has become synonymous with Resurrection Sunday.
In the Church year Easter is not just a day, it is a season. Eastertide or the Festival of the Resurrection lasts from Easterday until the day of Pentecost. The fullness of the season allows for time not just to remember an event long past, but also remember that this event is ongoing in its consequences for the World. Jesus is the firstfruit of the Resurrection that awaits all in the last day.
Let us recapture the FULLNESS of Easter, not just as a day which somehow makes us feel better about our lives, but as a real celebration of the historical miracle that Jesus was raised from the dead to new life, and that we can have new life in him.
It is my contention that the word “Easter” has lost its theological meaning and significance. We either need to reeducate our people on its true meaning, or stop using it. Either way we cannot allow it to be a veil that distances the hearer from the true meaning of what we are celebrating: Alleluia, Alleluia The Lord is Risen!