Something feels a little uncomfortable about Easter to me.
For starters, it’s not about a sweet, soft, cuddly newborn baby—like Christmas. Babies are likeable. Our hearts are pulled to them, to their innocence and to their need for our care. The Christmas story is easy to love with the happy, healthy birth; the visitation of angels to Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds; the star that moved and the wise men who brought gifts. All the elements of a grand epic are present, including miracles and a dramatic rescue from the dangerous Herod. What’s not to love about this feel-good story?
But Easter is about a man who was executed, brutally and humiliatingly. It’s not pretty. Definitely R-rated for all the blood and gore and violence. Even though our culture flocks to R-rated movies, there’s an understanding that they are not real. But Jesus’ story did happen, and our sensibilities recoil from the harshness of that reality. And beyond the murder is the shocking statement Jesus made to His disciples before His death about drinking His blood and eating His flesh, by which He meant they would partake of His coming sacrifice. Frankly it can sound creepy. It’s quite a different image than the Nativity scene.
Something else about Easter feels wrong. It’s not an entirely happy story. Jesus lived a life of profound, inexplicable grief and sadness. To be completely rejected by everyone, to be purely innocent yet condemned to death is and always will be beyond comprehension.
This is not to say Jesus did not have moments of joy and happiness during his years on earth. He did. But He came to His own—to the planet He made—and I imagine He felt deep loss every day at the broken state of all He created and loved.
So how do we celebrate the Easter of death and sacrifice? With symbols that soften that harshness, like baby chicks, baby bunnies, and bright, happy colored eggs. To be sure, Easter is about new life and all of these happy symbols represent that truth. It is no coincidence that Easter is a spring holiday when all of the earth is awakening from its winter slumber.
But, I wonder, shouldn’t there be more?
Christmas is essential, for it is the beginning. But without Easter, Christmas would be worthless, forgotten not long after it had begun. And we would be living in perpetual winter not unlike the land of Narnia under the spell of the white witch.
In many orthodox religions, Easter is more celebrated than Christmas, for truly it is the apex of the Christian faith. And I believe that is how it should be.
Instead of viewing Easter as a holiday, which has come to mean only a vacation of sorts, we who believe should return to it being a holy day. For it is the holiness of Jesus that gives us new life, the Resurrection we commemorate on Easter morning.
What I desire is the creation of a celebration that surpasses Christmas. Not with gifts and parties and elaborate decorations, but a genuine day of rejoicing, not unlike a stadium full of enthusiastic people who are jumping up and down cheering because their team won.
The truth is we have won in Christ! At Easter we who believe celebrate a victory unlike any sports team; we rejoice over the unspeakable deliverance given to us by Christ when He conquered sin and set us free. We, too, were dead and now are alive! That victory deserves an extravagant, jubilant celebration.
My favorite hymn says, “My sin, not in part but the whole, is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more. Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, oh my soul!” Many times, when singing those lines, I’ve wanted to jump up and down and cheer as I would at a football game.
Too bad that isn’t normal Easter protocol.