I’ve had some people tell me Easter is a family holiday. All the relatives come to visit – or go to visit. There are gifts & treats for the kids.
I get that. Family is a great thing. Doing things together – just spending time together – is essential for healthy family life and staying connected across the generations.
But Easter is not about family. Easter is about Jesus.
From one angle, a prophet went up to Jerusalem, preaching the Word of the Lord. The authorities felt threatened so they killed him – as cruelly as they could imagine – by nailing him to a cross.
From another angle, God incarnate took upon himself all the sins of the world, suffering the consequences of those sins, willingly dying on the cross.
Both approaches amount to a dead body laid in a tomb. Not just “severely pained.” Not just “injured.” He was dead. The executioners were experts – they had enough experience to know what they were doing. The meddlesome prophet was dead. The immortal God laid in the tomb.
But then Easter came – the word we use for the Sunday morning Jesus came to life again. Though we illustrate his rising with images from nature – butterflies, flowers, etc., this coming to life again was not a natural process. It had never happened before. Except for a very few exceptions, dead folks, once dead, stayed dead. Even the few who were raised from the dead rose only temporarily.
Jesus, raised from the dead, lives forever. Through his death and resurrection he defeated all the powers of sin, death and hell for us. When we celebrate Easter, we’re celebrating that victory of Jesus.
Family? Family is good, but no substitute for Jesus.
We have recently re-joined the UMC … and while our new church is not exactly “high church,” this congregation certainly seems to value ritual, tradition, etc. far more than where we came from. We attended a Good Friday service last night that I found particularly moving. As I get older, I find myself more and more drawn to ritual and tradition, and am less and less satisfied with a “think of a fresh way to do it” mentality.
But back to the Good Friday service. The choir and orchestra presented “Lenten Sketches” — a series of interpretations of “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence” as a musical theme. For visuals, images of great paintings of the various events of Holy Week were projected.
Maybe one of the reasons we emphasize Family at Easter is because of the tradition aspect. It connects us to the past. I read somewhere recently that the tradition of serving ham at Easter goes back to the Romans. They would bury hams in the sand on the shores of the Mediterranean, in the fall when they butchered pork, and the salty brine would gradually cure them so that they were ready by spring.
We no longer dye eggs or even invite extended family for Easter. However, the kids are already trying to find out whether I have prepared them an Easter Basket for tomorrow … and the youngest is now 14!