Focus – I Prefer Easter
By Major Anne Pickup –
February 12 is Ash Wednesday, the day that launches the Lenten season. Christians around the world will use the 40 days prior to Easter as a time of introspection-a period of personal self-examination, discipline, penitence and spiritual renewal. The season will culminate with the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus on Easter.
On Easter Sunday, there will be an influx of celebrants at church. It happens at Christmas, too-as corps officers, Bill and I could count on Easter and Christmas being our largest Sunday attendances of the year. We were convinced some people wouldn’t recognize the sanctuary without lilies or poinsettias!
Church growth experts tell us that annual church attendees now prefer Christmas over Easter. It’s not hard to understand why. Christmas is warmed by the story of a baby, shepherds, choirs of angels and magi with exotic gifts. The message of Christmas is love, joy and peace.
Easter, on the other hand, is a confrontation with death. You can’t have the victorious hymns of resurrection without first being devastated by death. Easter is incomplete without Good Friday-the day Jesus died by torture.
While many prefer Christmas, I prefer Easter. I have faced too much death lately to be soothed by the warmth of Christmas. I have experienced too much pain to be comforted by shepherds and wise men. Life has been tough and I need a tough “in your face” reality to survive and begin to make any sense of this.
I don’t need a baby to nestle tenderly in my arms…I need the power of an empty tomb.
I don’t need gifts that warm my heart…I need the promise of eternal life.
I don’t need the soft melodies of carols…I need the pulsating rhythm of victory hymns.
I need to be able to wrestle with issues, not cradle warm emotions.
I prefer the cross to the cradle. Easter with its Good Friday gives me all this.
For many, the cross is an offense. It “gets in your face” and challenges our lifestyles, attitudes, relationships, priorities and commitments. The cross ultimately confronts our sin. This is not the warm fuzzy stuff of life…this is where the rubber of life hits the road. And this is the stuff that must be confronted when dealing with the harshness of death.
Death is not the end for a Christian. The cross of Good Friday was followed by the empty tomb of Easter. The cross and death of Jesus puts God into my reality of pain and loss. The empty tomb and resurrection puts me into the reality of God’s promise of eternal life. Jesus’ resurrection gives hope beyond today’s events.
You can’t have Easter without Christmas. But Christmas without Easter is an incomplete story. Christmas presents the framework which Easter fills to completion. Christmas is a wonderful season, but I prefer Easter
Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?
The sting of death is sin…but thanks be to God!
He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
I Corinthians 15:55-56