Is Easter Still Relevant?
Flossy green plastic grass. That’s what I remember. Flossy plastic grass making a nest in a woven yellow plastic basket for little yellow marshmallow chicks called “Peeps.” And around the nest there were colorful jellybeans and a few chocolate eggs wrapped in shiny aluminum foil. But the crowning glory of it all was a giant chocolate bunny – almost 6” high! Yes, the chocolate bunny was disappointingly hollow, but still, half a foot of milk chocolate just for me!
The plastic nest was so full of colorful candy that there was barely enough room to hold the colored hard-boiled eggs we had found hidden around the house when we first woke up in the morning. A new “Sunday” outfit – a suit and tie for me and my brother, and for my sisters, bright new Sunday dresses complete with bows for their hair. That’s what I remember about Easter.
We are all grown now, with children of our own, who have children of their own. And so very much has changed since then. I grew up in a Christian home in a Christian society in a ‘Christian nation.’ Oh, so much has changed!
This begs the question, are holiday traditions simply uncomplicated heartwarming rituals? Or do they still represent a greater truth that is –after all these years– still quite relevant today?
Many people are clearly still searching for the answer to the question “Why are we here?” even if they no longer have the habit of going to church, or “church” long lost its relevancy to their priorities. The hunger for chocolate candy has turned into a hunger for some kind of meaning in life, above and beyond the materialistic.
Easter provides just that kind of meaning. It is the story of how God sent His Son to earth to give us what we most hunger for: meaning in life, committed, quality relationships, an inner hope that is stronger than any of the challenges and disappointments that life bombards us with, and the possibility of new beginnings when things have gone horribly wrong.
MEANING IN LIFE
The story of Easter is God’s story. How He loves us so much –even when we have long forgotten Him– to seek us out and reconcile us. The most recognized figure of ancient history was born in a manger, was a great teacher who performed amazing miracles to provide health for the sick, food for the hungry, wine for the wedding, and peace in the storm. There is a God who cares for us, and He clothed himself in human flesh to be completely approachable by the people around Him.
God is so committed to have a relationship with us, that he took care of the biggest problem that separates us – our disobedience to Him. He tells us not to steal, not to lie, not to hate our brother, and not to crave the things that belong to other people – all things that benefit us as a human race. Yet we do them anyway, hurting ourselves, and hurting the One who wants so much for us to enjoy loving relationships. So, He offered Himself to take the punishment for our disobedience, in order that justice could be served while sparing us at the same time.
But the Easter story continues. When the Roman authorities approved the plan of the top religious leaders, they executed Jesus. He was put in a stone tomb, and armed guards ensured that no one could steal the body. Yet three days later, while the guards were there, something remarkable happened – the once dead Jesus walked out of his own grave. This Jesus said something that no one else has ever been able to say: “Because I live, you too shall live.” The living hope of followers of Jesus is that death is not an ending but a beginning.
An Easter egg is a symbol. A baby chick is locked in the dark confines of an egg. But when the time is right, that chick bursts out of her prison to a wonderful new life full of freedom, light and a flurry of activity. From that cold tomb Jesus burst out to a new freedom of life, the same life He offers to all those who follow Him.
Easter celebrations are not as artificial as all the plastic in that yellow Easter basket. It is real, and it is rewarding. Jesus said to a grieving woman who had just lost her beloved brother,
“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
John 11:25-26 NIV
And that is the relevance of Easter. If you have ever searched for the meaning of life, if you are continuously disappointed searching for the love of committed relationships, if you have ever grieved the loss of a loved one, or if you have ever longed for a new beginning, Easter is relevant to you.
Rev. Mark D. Henzler ThM, DMin.
Pastor, Heliopolis Community Church
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