At Eastertime our girls always had to have a new dress. Keitha said so. And that was that.
Of course I adored them in those bright, fluffy outfits, and our family photo collection is replete with ample evidence of my pride in Heather and Holly’s springtime beauty. But there was a ritual dialogue Keitha and I usually engaged in before she got the dresses. It usually went something like this:
Keitha: I think I’ll go shop for the girls’ Easter dresses tomorrow.
Phil: What’s wrong with last year’s dresses?
Keitha: They were for last year.
Phil: Why do we need to buy a new Easter dress every year? We’re trying to live on officers’ salary.
Keitha: I want our girls to look special at Easter. We can afford to buy our girls a dress. We’re not that poor.
Phil: The dresses they wore last Easter are still pretty. Why can’t they wear them again? No one will know the difference.
Keitha: I will. I won’t deny our girls a new Easter dress – and that’s all there is to it.
End of conversation.
Our primary aim always,
Now, these many years later, I know (and confess) that I was only posturing. First of all, I was probably trying to buy a little self-righteousness: someone needs to take a stand against materializing Easter and free us from the Easter parade of worldly fashions. Why should we give in to annual consumerist pressure to buy new Easter dresses every year?
I have to admit, however, that when Heather and Holly appeared in their new dresses on Eastern morning, I always went for the camera. Those girls were adorable. I also knew that we had not really added to the wealth of those who were profiting from using a Christian event to pursue inflated profits. Keitha never walks away with a buy without cutting the seller’s profit to the bone. She’s the master of the deal. Well, maybe it didn’t hurt to spend a little this Easter.
We Salvationists have a reputation for simplicity. Sometimes our discipline has been extreme. Sometimes our self-denial has approached obsession. Occasionally, we become so caught up in what we can’t or shouldn’t do that we withhold joy from ourselves.
Easter is not the time for self-denial. It is the time to dress up and dance. Good Friday is the climax of Jesus’ journey of self-giving, the invitation for us also to die to ourselves. But the eternal truth behind crucifixion is exposed in the Easter that follows: the loss of life is the finding of it (Luke 9:24), hope lives behind our shattered dreams, death’s power is destroyed (I Cor 15:54-55). Easter reveals the reality: sin has been overcome. In response to the Good Friday prayer, ‘Lord, make Calvary real to me,’ comes the Easter prayer, ‘Open my eyes to see victory in Christ for me.’ Easter is a victory parade.
So bring out the band and songsters, wave the resurrection banners, and wake the dead. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! And we with him!
Worship in vivid color. Pray with smiles. Paint canvases of jubilation. And yes – dress in your best.
Keitha got it right. Dress the girls as beautifully as possible, every year. Easter is here to stay.
And now a new generation. Less than two months ago, Heather delivered a boy – our first grandchild. William Jackson Hawkins. He’s near perfect. (His only flaw is temporary: he sleeps mostly during the day and cries most of the night.)
This will be his first Easter. I’m sure Heather and Jack will dress him in a cute little outfit, maybe with a little bow tie. It makes perfect sense to me.