What is your favorite Easter memory? This isn't a trick question, at least it shouldn't be. I remember our church hosting an annual Easter Egg hunt at Ken and Janet Carlson's home. They lived way out in the country and the eggs were really hidden. The littlest kids had some eggs strewn about on the ground, but by first grade you were expected to really search for your eggs. Even the High School students had a section of forest, and most of their eggs were high in the trees and deep under the brush. They would often hide more than 100 eggs for the High Schoolers to find, but if we found more than 20 it was a good year. There was a real hunt to it. I remember in general the way that worship was, with a packed crowd and we always had balloons and lillies.
What is your favorite Christmas memory? This is a much easier question, isn't it? Christmas lasts from about September 3rd when the first Christmas song comes on the radio until December 25th at 4 PM when all the toys have lost their luster and everyone is in a food coma.
Even as a secular holiday, Christmas has Easter beat by a mile. Santa Claus represents magic, warmth, love, and childlike wonder. The Easter bunny is creepy. How big is the Easter Bunny? Is he a man-sized terrifying creature or a rabbit sized creature who can't carry a basket? Maybe inbetween? Have you ever seen one - just one - photo of a child with the Easter Bunny where the Easter Bunny isn't terrifying?
What is your favorite Easter song? Your favorite Easter movie? What's the best Easter present you've ever received? These are silly questions, but certainly we all have a favorite Christmas carol, movie, and a favorite present.
Part of the problem is that Easter moves around so much. The Easter Bunny and spring delight storyline falls apart a bit when we have to brush the snow off of our cars each morning. Easter is a class C holiday in America. It's up there with Valentine's Day and St. Patrick's day, but well below Christmas and Thanksgiving. Even New Year's seems to be rising above it in popularity.
And I'm certainly not one of these preachers who's going to stand up and talk about how the Easter Bunny is evil, or Santa for that matter. But I'll be the first to say that we need to get our Easter game together!
I read the most fascinating article last Christmas about how Americans celebrate Christmas. The author wrote that essentially at Christmas there are people who celebrate the birth of Jesus and there are people who celebrate the idea that we used to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Even people who have no connection to a church or to any idea of God still enjoy the warmth and joy of the season. Essentially, for many people, Christmas is a time to celebrate tradition. It's like the cultures around the world who put shafts of wheat on their Christmas table to remember their ancestors who worshiped the old gods and the sun and moon. It is easy amid the rush and bustle, the hubbub and merriment, the stockings and sugarplums to lose the meaning and to celebrate the stockings and sugarplums instead of the birth that they are meant to celebrate.
But with Easter, we don't have that. We don't have the tradition and the wacky Hollywood hijinks and the sappy songs on the radio. We have a week of commercialized bunny stuff merged with general spring celebration.
With Christmas, amid the frenzy and activity, amid the quest to make everything perfect, we have that beautiful Linus moment from the Peanut's Christmas special - that moment when the scrappiest of the bunch steps forward and reminds everyone of the real reason for the season.
Easter is nothing but the Linus moment. There's not the same pageantry and pomp. We don't get lost amid our boxes and boxes of Easter decorations. All we have is our simple story and the joy that lives in our hearts each time we hear it.
[Read Mark 16:1-7]
All we have is an empty tomb, and full hearts.
Easter is the highest of all holy days specifically because it is so simple. Jesus lived on this earth, and he taught us how to live. He loved the poorest of the poor, cried with the abused and the marginalized, he healed our every brokeness and disease - and then he followed that path up to the cross, to the most humiliating and painful death imaginable, and three days later he rose from the dead. It's the most fantastic story the world has ever heard, but for two thousand years the followers of Jesus have proven the story true over and over and over again.
And so, this day, we share this simple story - that God loved you enough to die for you so that you may be made whole and live eternally. We share this simple meal of bread and juice to remind us of what Christ did for us. We take his body and his blood and know that He gave all so that we could be set free.
Dear friends, the tomb is empty, the table is set, and our hearts are ready to be made full.