Replacement Easter

24 03 2008

We have just been through Easter, a strange experience. I live in the UK so our experiences are no doubt different from other parts of the world.  An on-line dictionary describes Easter as “a Christian feast commemorating the resurrection of Jesus.” It adds that it is observed on the first Sunday following the full moon that occurs on or following the vernal equinox – March 21st. These facts are important to observe when we look at just what has happened this year to ‘Easter’.

First of all, Easter was very early this year because full moon was actually on the 21st March, Good Friday, and the powers that be decided that that was from when Easter (Sunday) should be calculated. The interesting thing is the Easter – the events of the New Testament – was at the time of Passover and my diary tells me that Passover this year is the 20th April (it also happens to be the next full moon). Did the powers that be decide that that was too late for society? Whatever the answer, Easter was early and early means in the UK the weather is still not good so, yes, we had a smattering of snow yesterday and it has been cold. Also, because Easter is so early, for the first time, it did not coincide with the school “Easter holidays”, the two week break that most schools have at this time of the year. They will be starting in a week’s time. Add to this the signs that we seem to be moving towards a recession and the word is that fewer people have escaped abroad for an Easter break, something that increasing numbers of Britons have been doing in recent years. Bad weather and many people staying in the country produced forecasts of terrible conditions on the roads. Put all these things together and you may possibly have an explanation why it seemed that by Good Friday supermarket shelves were often empty.

It seems that every time we have a holiday weekend – slightly longer than normal weekends – the population moves into ‘siege mentality’ and buys and stocks up on food as if there was going to be no tomorrow. It seems that people have been “celebrating Easter” but the signs are that it hasn’t been the Easter of my definition above. No doubt there were a few bodies more in churches, especially the Roman Catholic church who are strong on ritual at this time, but mostly that is not so and around the world life just carries on. Looking for signs of Easter in shops would confuse a visiting alien from another planet. Easter eggs and Easter Bunnies abound but try and buy an Easter greeting card with anything connected with our definition, and you would have a hard job. In fact despite the fact that shops were full of Easter Eggs and Easter Bunnies a few weeks before the event, when it came to the weekend, many shops were sold out. One website that I recently visited declared, “Today, Easter bunny occupies the most dominant position amonst all symbols of Easter“. Funny, I thought it was the Cross, but look in the shops and this outrageous quote is spot on!

When the day arrived the weather was terrible, the streets often empty, and most people – presumably – stayed indoors consuming the vast amounts of food they have cleared off the supermarket shelves! It was by and large a non-Christian Easter. In other words it wasn’t Easter but a replacement feast. So why do non-Christians ‘celebrate’ and feast at this time? Is it a case of grabbing at any opportunity to brighten up otherwise dull lives. We are a very weather conscious people and the weather has been pretty grim recently! But why do parents feel pressurised to go buying lots of expensive chocolate Easter eggs for their children at five times the cost of usual chocolate bars?

It seems that as we become more and more irreligious, we become more and more prey to the pressures of retailers and the whims of business playing on the guilt ridden minds of fractured families. It all goes together. It is also all so depressing. Yesterday, instead of rejoicing over the wonder of Christs resurrection (there was a little of that), I found myself wanting to weep for this nation that has cast aside its Christian heritage and is now adrift in the seas of uncertainty and insecurity.

In my own Bible studies or meditations, which you can find on my corresponding Bible Meditations Shop blog, I am as convinced as every of the historical event we refer to as Easter and the wonder of the person called Jesus Christ, revealed by the resurrection as the unique Son of God, come to reveal God to us and provide a means for our salvation. The real Easter is still as wonderful as ever, which perhaps helps show up even more the terrible, shallow replacement that many are left with. Pilate presenting Jesus to the crown on Good Friday declared, “Behold the man!” We declare, “Behold the egg!” Pilate cynically asked, “What is truth?” with no desire for an answer, and similarly today many copy his apathy.

For a world sunk in weak religion and oppression by foreigners, the truth of Easter Sunday emerged slowly like the sun rising over the horizon, but once it was fully realised, it brought the same transformation to life as the fully risen sun does to the earth. Jesus Christ risen declared that he was indeed the Son of God, a God of incredible love who had walked the earth for three years bringing transformation to life after life. Now it was down to his followers, empowered by his Spirit, who would continue the same work. It also declared that with God nothing is impossible. Where there seems no future, suddenly there is the possibility of a wonderful future. How wonderful! But no Easter means no hope. No Easter means hollow chocolate eggs that are soon gone! How terrible!
  

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