Like all holidays, Easter is associated with many rituals and traditions we repeat year after year. There are Easter colors, Easter songs, Easter flowers, and so on. Even if you don’t come from a religious background, maybe you participated in Easter egg hunts when you were young or shared a special meal with family and friends. Within the Christian tradition, Easter is the high point of the church calendar- yes, even bigger than Christmas! Consequently, there are arguably more rituals and traditions associated with Easter than with any other Christian holiday.
Next week, Christians all over the world will be breaking tradition and declining ritual simply because many of us will not be able to attend a church service in person. Instead, many churches will have an online service, as they have been doing since shelter-in-place orders.
This is definitely a disruption of ritual and a change in our routine; thus, many of us may feel uncomfortable, even sad and grieved this Easter. Our rituals ground us, help us to remember important truths, and connect us to the generations that have gone before us. It is good to have such rhythms in our lives. The predictability is calming, the anticipation is joyful, the memories can be rich, and there is a communal aspect that is vital for our sense of humanness.
But Easter is not going to be the same this year.
This situation has me thinking: do I really understand Easter? Do I really know the Easter story? Can I feel it’s warmth deep down in my bones? And most pressing on my mind right now, can I experience its truth when I am alone, closed off in my house?
This Easter, I don’t get to rely on the powerful worship songs that envelop me as I sing in unison with my congregation. I won’t be able to enjoy conversations with a seasoned saint at my church’s Easter Pancake Breakfast. Wearing an ‘Easter dress’ might feel out of place when I am sitting on my couch or wrangling my toddler. (The jury is still out, I might actually need to wear the Easter dress for self-esteem purposes…)
Easter is not going to be the same this year. It’s going to be something different, something new but with ancient roots.
God has been challenging me to return to the old Easter story with fresh eyes. To see it for what it is without any distractions, without the traditions and rituals I have grown accustomed to. Perhaps God is inviting you back to this story, too.
The Easter story is the Gospel story; God sent his Son to free us from our sin by dying and resurrecting so that we, too, could have eternal life. Easter is about resurrection: a fancy way of saying that Jesus didn’t stay dead! Everything in the Christian faith hangs on that one moment, when Jesus rose from the grave, defeating death itself.
There are many passages in the Bible that discuss this moment and its significance, but for the particular situation in which we find ourselves this year, I want to share my favorite Easter Scripture with you. This passage is not always included in traditional Easter services, but if you spend time with the passage, you’ll see that it is in fact saturated with resurrection truth:
Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other. But—
When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. Because of his grace he made us right in his sight and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.1
Did you catch that whole “new birth and new life” part? That’s Easter! In Christ, we are heirs to the throne of God.2 This is only possible because of God’s grace and mercy toward us. We have a good, loving, kind, resurrected Savior. In Christ, we experience Easter every day; God has given us new life and is actively renewing more and more of ourselves each day.
Yes, Christ’s resurrection is a historic event, but we also experience little resurrections by the power of the Holy Spirit day by day. As we seek God and cling to his Scriptures, even without our normal traditions and rituals, God will make the dead parts of our hearts come to life. Ezekiel described this transformation as dead stone turning to flesh.3
Where we are calloused or apathetic, God is giving us empathy for others. Where we are hurt or bitter, God is healing us and restoring our relationships. Where we are jealous and judgmental, God is prompting us to forgive and to extend mercy toward others.
Don’t miss these little resurrections in your life! Perhaps with increased solitude right now, God will show you where he is bringing new life in you and in those around you. Maybe that’s what this Easter is all about.
For your consideration:
- What rituals or traditions are you losing this year?
- In what new rhythms and rituals can you participate during this time that you couldn’t before you were confined to your home?
- Where do you see ‘little resurrections’ around you?
- How much have you prayed for more resurrection in your heart? (Maybe pray right now!)