Have you ever noticed how hard it is to really give your attention to Easter? I mean the actual resurrection. The main event.
It isn’t the marshmallow bunnies and chocolate eggs that distract us.
Take, as an example, #1 in the sharefaith.com list of “Top 10 Easter Worship Songs” from last year. (I don’t really know the site. Just a hit on a Google search.)
The song: “Glorious Day (Living He Loved Me)” by Casting Crowns. (I don’t really know the band. I’m sure they are swell. Lots of people love them. Maybe I would too if I were more hip.)
Now wait a minute before you click through to those lyrics. Here’s what you will find as a topical outline in the #1 Easter Worship Song:
Verse 1: The story of Christmas
Chorus: Jesus’ life, Good Friday, Easter, Eschatological Return
Verse 2: Good Friday
Verse 3: Easter, Ascension, Easter
Verse 4: Eschatological Return
So in the #1 Easter Worship Song, the actual event of Easter is mentioned in one of six lines of the chorus, and most, but not all, of one verse.
This is actually better than another song popular at Eastertide (though not on ShareFaith’s top 10), “Lord I Lift Your Name on High” by Donnie McClurkin:
You came from heaven to earth, to show the way
From the earth to the cross, my debt to pay
From the cross to the grave, from the grave to the sky
Lord I lift your name on high.”
That’s right. In this song, Jesus was buried in the tomb and then shot up straight to heaven as if from a missile silo. Good Friday followed by the Ascension, without intervening resurrection.
It is stirring to sing. It feels like Easter singing this song. But this song forgot to mention Easter.
The obstacle to really celebrating the resurrection of Jesus is not our culture’s preference for pastel colors and eggs. The obstacle is that sheer gravity of the cross, of Jesus death, in the thinking of North American Christians.
So what IS Easter about?
If we would only stop and meditate on the fact that Jesus actually rose to life — the same person, and yet mysteriously new — we would be doing a very healthy thing. As Paul put it,
… if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain. (1 Cor. 15:14)
The annual celebration of Christ’s resurrection is a far bigger deal than much of modern Christianity acknowledges.
For the first generation, the Jews who followed Jesus and the Jews who first heard their message, it actually changed the way they related to time itself.
That sounds a bit abstract. Here’s what I mean:
For centuries, from creation and from covenant, Jews worshipped on the seventh day — the Sabbath, which we call Saturday. Then, after being crucified on Good Friday, and resting in the tomb on the Sabbath, Jesus came to life again on Sunday. It was such a big deal that even in the time of Acts the Jewish Christians had begun to gather on Sunday, the day of the week of Easter.
The celebration of the resurrection then became the first event celebrated annually by Christians — the seed from which the whole Church year grew.
If you want to learn the power of Easter, turn East
To see Christians who really focus on the resurrection at Easter, visit an Orthodox church. With a profound sense of drama they march around the church singing the great Easter hymn:
Christ is risen from the dead,
trampling down death by death,
and upon those in the tombs restoring life!
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed. New life has come. Alleluia.