Yes, you heard me right: EASTER! I know it’s unusual. I know it’s weird. I know I am weird.
In September/October I read the book “Surprised by Hope” by N. T. Wright. And in it he talks about “Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church”. His thoughts fascinated me. His description of why it matters how we live now, had me baffled. The inside flap of the book cover reads:
“Wright convincingly argues that what we believe about life after death directly affects what we believe about life before death. For if God intends to renew the whole creation – and if this has already begun in Jesus’s resurrection – the church cannot stop at ‘saving souls’ but must anticipate the eventual renewal by working for God’s kingdom in the wider world, bringing healing and hope in the present life.”
It came to me as a big surprise when I read his explanation on “the new heavens and the new earth”, but also what happens to the dead until this new heaven and the new earth are in place. It’s a different perspective, very new to me, since I grew up with a whole different set of teachings. I plan to really work through this book one more time, since there were so many new astonishing interpretations.
BUT the reason I’d like to talk about EASTER in a Christmas post is also something that I learned in this book. On page 255 and following, Wright talks about “Celebrating Easter” and he basically tells us that our celebrations of the “big” church events are totally upside down. We start with Advent & Christmas, which are celebrated like nothing else on our calendar. HUGE, elaborate, amazing… Then comes Lent, which is only being observed by a few people. Then the drama peaks again with Good Friday. The churches I know make a very big deal out of Good Friday. Which it is, of course. But then:
What about Easter?
It kind of disappears after the big drama of Good Friday. Easter is then just one of the “normal” Sundays. Sometimes it’s turned into a baptism service, that represents the resurrection of Christ. But then it’s done, right? Well, not according to Wright:
“Easter week itself ought not be the time when all the clergy sigh with relief and go on holiday. It ought to be an eight-day festival, with champagne served after morning prayer or even before, with lots of alleluias and extra hymns and spectacular anthems. Is it any wonder people find it hard to believe in the resurrection of Jesus if we don’t throw our hats in the air? Is it any wonder we find it hard to live the resurrection if we don’t do it exuberantly in our liturgies? Is it any wonder the world doesn’t take much notice if Easter is celebrated as simply the one-day happy ending tacked on to forty days of fasting and gloom? It’s long overdue that we took a hard look at how we keep Easter in church, at home, in our personal lives, right through the system. And if it means rethinking some cherished habits, well, maybe it’s time to wake up…”
Well, that really got me thinking this fall, and especially once Advent came closer, I thought about Easter more and more. I don’t think I ever contemplated the importance of Jesus’s resurrection before I read this book. What an eye opener!!!
(By the way, did you read his mentioning of “champagne” in connection with Easter celebration? For North Americans that might be very strange. But not for Europeans. I fondly remember many celebrations that we had, called “champagne breakfast” or “Sektfruehstueck” in German.)
And since I’m a very visual person, I thought about what it would be like, if we had that big “ugly” cross from Good Friday up on stage at Christmas time? It could be next to the Christmas tree and the manger. Why not? Why not have a reminder that Christmas was only one part in God’s overall plan to save us from our sins, from our brokenness and hopelessness. What about an empty tomb next to the Christmas tree? And lots and lots of flowers, real flowers (which might be hard to come by in our climate zone), but one can dream, right?
“Take Christmas away, and in biblical terms you lose two chapters at the front of Matthew and Luke, nothing else. Take Easter away, and you don’t have a New Testament; you don’t have a Christianity;… We shouldn’t allow the secular world, with its schedules and habits and para-religious events, its cute Easter bunnies, to blow us off course. This is our greatest day. We should put the flags out.” (N. T. Wright)
I definitely learned a lot about the proportions of each holiday, and that’s just from a few pages of that book! From now on I definitely want to celebrate Easter differently. That’s one of the New Year’s resolutions I’m working on…
But to prove to you that I haven’t gone “totally weird” – yet, I will include a few pictures of my decorations for this Christmas:
My daughter’s advent calendar. Made many years ago.
The stockings are hung, but not filled yet.
Don’t worry, I do know there are only 4 Advent Sundays.
These were just leftover candles that I had.
So, with that said, I do wish everyone a wonderful, blessed and Merry Christmas and I’ll be back after the holidays!