In our hurried and harried lives, holidays and events come and go frequently with a speed that often has me wondering about the proportions of life. The extent of preparation we undertake for such brief moments of celebration seems out of kilter. Christmas shopping begins earlier every year. Last year, I saw the first department store Christmas displays in late September. We literally spend months in preparation—decorating, shopping for Christmas gifts, attending parties—and then, in a day and a half, it is history. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays but again, it is over so quickly that the days spent in anticipation and culinary preparation give way to what can be an anticlimactic moment that culminates with watching a parade and a football game. Our culture is so disposed to “what’s next?” that we find ourselves trying to keep pace with a calendar that is far too often driven by the commercial expectations of society and less by our actual reflection and true enjoyment of our holidays and their meanings and origins.
Easter is no exception. We spend weeks arranging for family gatherings, creating menus, planning activities, and even buying new wardrobes for photo shoots. Some store up chocolates—and those perennial peeps—and lay them all in baskets, waiting for the kids to wake up and gobble the lot before gathering everyone together to leave for church. There are services, parades, egg hunts, brunches, and elaborate dinners. And all of them are over in one brief day, one Sunday in early spring that is gone as quickly as the last Sunday.
Comedian Jim Gaffigan has a routine that mocks our cultural holidays and the insanity they bring to life, as well as the irrationality of the traditions we sometimes undertake. In one bit, he points out that “we are going to decorate eggs and hide them…for Jesus. But don’t worry, it’s okay, there’s a bunny.” I laugh every time I hear it because it is true. And it stings a little.
Easter, and the memorializing of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, is not a trivial thing. It is not something that can be remembered one day a year and then shut away until next spring. It is an event that changed the course of human history in every sense. In the Christian faith, it is the hinge on which all doctrine hangs. And yet even for us as Christians—though our traditions observe Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Resurrection Sunday, and for some, Ascension Day—our Easter Celebration is over far too quickly.
This was not the case for the disciples. The day they found the tomb empty was just the beginning. It was not an easily forgotten event. It is the reason why they continued to meet on the first day of the week—to commemorate the resurrection weekly. I am quite fond of the Gospel of John and read it every year. I was recently reading in chapter 21 and verse 14: “This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after He was raised from the dead.” It always strikes me how many people encountered Jesus after His resurrection. This event that shook the world was not without eyewitness testimony over a period of time. The man who was crucified, dead, and buried was alive and not in hiding. He was walking about, appearing among them miraculously, and even cooking a campfire breakfast for His disciples. In John 21, Jesus’ students saw a fire with bread and fish on it. Then Jesus summoned them to Him, and they didn’t even dare ask who He was because they knew it was Jesus. He had appeared—to be with them, to bless them, and to provide for them. He cooked them breakfast with His own hands. His appearing was personal and real. So too was His resurrection.
The actual event we celebrated is not one to be trifled with. The record shows it to be real and personal. It was so for the men and women who found the empty tomb and then interacted with Jesus in the days that followed. And so it should be for us. It is not to be trotted out annually for another reason to eat and be merry and then be shelved again for another 12 months. It is to be contemplated, free from the commercialism and cultural entanglements of our calendars. What would the impact on our lives be if we not only savored the holidays when they come around, but reflected on them and the meaning they hold all year long?
This article was originally posted in the Bucks County Courier Times on April 6, 2018.