Why I celebrate Easter
At the risk of repeating myself yet again, let me declare my main Christian background is Plymouth Brethren. The PBs, especially in its early days, and stricter elements are still of that persuasion, do NOT celebrate any of the special days, with reference to Anglican and some other traditions that have something for every day of the year. They do not even consider Christmas and Easter, although my early PB experience was Christmas was recognized, albeit from a perspective this being an excellent opportunity for Gospel outreach.
I remember, in my early days, I had two friends who were keen Christians that fell out over whether or not we should celebrate Christmas. I filled the role of peacemaker, getting to understand each of the arguments made by my friends. I came to a view that while I was more leaning to the don’t celebrate camp because of the pagan origins, commercial exploitation and sentimental slosh that went with celebrating Easter, and more poignantly Christmas. On the other hand, I get why, back in the day, those who controlled church affairs came up with these celebrations as a way of shifting cultural sensibilities and as part of the discipline whereby the whole gamut of Christian experience could be covered in a year.
Since leaving the PBs, most churches I belonged to did celebrate Christmas and Easter (although not other feasts), more recently showing the value of celebrating Advent leading up to Christmas and Lent leading up to Easter as a means for sober reflection. I also have sympathy, when it comes to feast celebration, with messianic types who lay particular store on acknowledging the Jewish feasts as laid out in the Pentateuch, providing it is seen more as picture of what concerns the mind and intents of the Lord, rather than something that, unlike our Jewish brothers, we are obliged to follow.
Going back to my early PB days, the most important event in the church calendar was the Sunday morning Breaking of Bread meeting, followed by the Sunday evening Gospel meeting. The emphasis of both was the atoning death of Jesus and, as some onlookers have observed, the PBs, unlike most other church traditions, laid particular emphasis on the Atonement (Good Friday), a lot more than with the Incarnation (Christmas Day) or the Resurrection (Easter Day), although all were considered important but, as the PBs might point out, not on a special day, but every day.
My observation is that in every church outside the PBs I have been associated with, things were never quite seen in that same light. I have long come to the view that church going may be seen by some (rightly) as problematic. For example: the need to feel as belonging (fellowship), what constitutes sound and apt teaching, personality differences and, most recently, the intrusion of divide and rule when it comes to responding to the Corona pan (scam) demic. It seems to me that, compared to the above list, the question of whether or not to celebrate Easter is a barely important one, although I concede that being wise to and resisting the Devil’s schemes is important.
Reflecting on the synonyms to the word “celebrate” that include: commemorate, observe, honour, mark, salute, recognize, acknowledge, remember, memorialize”, it struck me that this may be a bit too strong concerning my attitude toward Easter. My ideal approach would be that which I see in what I would like to think is the quintessential Anglican, who would start off with Lent as a period of preparation and sober reflection. Then onto Holy Week, considering Palm Sunday and the other main events, e.g. celebrating the Passover, and then onto Good Friday that might include fasting and a three hour service focusing on happenings around Jesus dying on the cross, and finally it is up at dawn on Sunday morning for a celebration champagne breakfast, rejoicing in the fact “He is Risen”.
Usually, for me, there is little change at Easter time from my routine in other days, but as for changes I made this year: Lent has passed me by barely noticed. Last Saturday, I was involved in an outreach in our city centre and was glad to link this to the Easter Story. During the week I have reflected on the events of Holy Week, including writing “Easter week and the story of two disciples who failed”. On Sunday, I went to church and the theme was (but only loosely) around what happened on Palm Sunday. We will be attending church on Good Friday where no doubt reference will be made to what happened when Jesus died on a cross but, rather than proclaim a fast, there will be a feast (or rather a fellowship meal). As for the big day itself, we will be on the road visiting friends and, as for any celebrating, it will be done mainly as part of family prayers.
Paul’s counsel to the Romans on not judging others is relevant here. Christians will celebrate Easter in any number of different ways or choose not to celebrate at all, or rather see every day as cause for celebration. As for Easter bunnies, eggs etc., I am ambivalent but recognize that it has little or anything to do with the Easter story of the Bible. I neither care not, nor do I think it matters what people think, given what matters is there is a world to win for Christ with the Easter message. And on this occasion, I am glad to celebrate …