It’s inevitable at Christmastime that you’ll hear all about how the Season has become too commercialized. Those who are concerned about celebrating the true meaning of Christmas are at odds with the stress created by the busyness of the season and, of course, the overspending. But I rarely hear similar criticisms of the Easter season. There are those who denounce the bunny/chocolate/eggs method of celebrating. But what if, even in criticizing these superficial elements of Easter, we’re still missing the true meaning of the death and resurrection of Jesus?
Lent and Holy Week, Good Friday and Easter. All of these important occasions are recognized and honoured by many Christians. We make commitments, plan meals with family, and show up at church on the very important days. When we do these things we feel like we get it. This is what being a Christian at Easter is all about! And when this time of year is over, we pack away our fancy clothes, shrug off the solemnity, and head back to our regular lives feeling like we’ve done it right. We’ve celebrated Easter and our God is please with us.
I was fine with this mentality for several years but it suddenly isn’t sitting so well with me anymore. In the past year or so, I’ve found myself wondering if I really am “doing it right.” Did Jesus die on the cross and rise again so that I could stress about what my kids wear to church?
In her book, 7:An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, Jen Hatmaker writes about what her priorities at Easter used to look like: “What better way to say ‘Jesus reigns’ than dressing my preschooler in a $45 dress to show her off in the church lobby? (You’re welcome, Jesus. Be blessed.) Now, let’s be clear, if you had asked me what my Easter priorities were as I stood all fancy in the lobby, I’d become grave and mention the resurrection. For crying out loud, I’m a Christian. But truthfully, between the outfit shopping, the Easter baskets, the egg ______ (dying, stuffing, hiding, hunting), the pictures, the lunch menu, and the gift buying, Jesus was flat last. I started thinking about him as the band started at church, and I thought about him for a whole hour.”
Is that all there is to Easter? I’m thinking more and more about Jesus’ torturous death on the cross and his miraculous resurrection three days later and how finding my “good” purse to carry this weekend is pathetically disproportionate to what his sacrifice actually means.
Maybe I’m getting a little too radical here. After all, there’s nothing wrong with celebrating Easter. On the cross, Jesus Himself said, “It is finished” (John 19:30). He’d completed the work God had given him to do and, when he rose, death was conquered and we were no longer lost in our sin but given eternal hope. Surely, that is more cause to celebrate than any other potential reason I can think of. Celebrations were given to us by God in the form of the feasts since Old Testament times. So, we certainly don’t want to lose sight of the fact that Jesus’ victory demands to be celebrated.
But what we do need to be absolutely certain of is that we are remembering Jesus in the way that He would have us remember Him.
In 2 Samuel 24:18-25, God tells King David to build an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. When David goes to buy the floor from Araunah, the man replies that he will not only give it to David for free, but also throw in oxen, the threshing boards and ox yokes for a fire. Sounds like a great deal for David, right? But David answers, “’No, I insist on buying it, for I will not present burnt offerings to the Lord my God that have cost me nothing.’ So David paid him fifty pieces of silver for the threshing floor and the oxen.”
From this I learn that it is not acceptable for us to give to God that which costs us nothing. What then, is to be our sacrifice? Paul writes in Romans 12:1, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”
That’s not a small task. So, how can we possibly accomplish it? Jesus said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)
Take up your cross DAILY.
So, maybe, the best way to celebrate Easter is to do just that. Celebrate Christ’s victory. But don’t let it end when we get home from Easter dinner on Sunday night.
Daily, I must choose to lay down my life and follow wherever Jesus would lead me. What does that look like in my life? It’s the commitment to choose the things of God rather than that of the world. To not live by fear even when terrifying things hit close to home. It’s the search for wisdom, through prayer and the Bible and even the lives of other believers. It’s the desire to follow the lead of the Holy Spirit rather than the pull of my own plans. A daily laying down of myself and my pride and my life so that He might be glorified.
That’s the best way I can think of to celebrate Easter.
WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE BEST WAY TO REMEMBER AND CELEBRATE JESUS’ DEATH AND RESURRECTION AT EASTER TIME?