Around many holidays, we hear the term, “We need to celebrate the true meaning of ….” We often ignore whatever the actual occasion is.
For example, Thanksgiving is often reduced to watching football and feasting. The Fourth of July is normally a barbecue, adult beverages and fireworks. And Christmas — don’t get me started.
This April, Jews observe Passover and Christians celebrate Holy Week and Easter. The exact dates are determined from the timing of the spring equinox, the next full moon and the subsequent Saturday or Sunday.
I understand that the Passover meal is the high point of the Jewish celebration. I’ve attended several Passover meals and the prayers and ceremonies are unmistakably focused on the Jews’ departure from Egypt some 3,600 years ago. Is it because of the relatively limited market size that Passover has not been commercialized to the extent that some “Christian” holidays have?
A visitor from another planet might think Easter was all about new clothes, candy, rabbits and white lilies. All of these are tangential to the idea of new life, but they are a faint shadow of the reality of what Christians celebrate.
And what is the “true meaning” of Easter as understood by Christians? It is the belief that Jesus was “cemetery dead” (as my redneck friends like to say) and his body was placed in an ordinary tomb. Then, after a full day and two partial ones, he came back to life in a body that still carried the marks of crucifixion, but was different, in that his closest friends often did not immediately recognize him. And, for Christians, this return to the land of the living by Jesus authenticates the hope that ordinary believers have—the hope that we will also live beyond our earthly life.
So, for Christians, whatever form our observance might take, may we focus on the real significance of Easter — the promise of eternal life. Because we exist in a physical body, it’s altogether reasonable that we commemorate Easter in a visible, tangible way. But as Christians, let us never forget that it is everlasting life that we celebrate.