During these last few weeks you have no doubt noticed a variety of Easter displays of colorful baskets of various sizes filled with furry and eatable bunnies, and a multicolored array of candy and eggs. While these displays are hard to miss, they pale in size and number to the avalanche of pre-Christmas displays that hit stores long before Santa Clause makes his midnight trip around the world. Easter should be the more joyous holiday with well-lit holiday decorations, gift giving, joyful celebrations, and family gatherings. Why is it that the most important of all Christian celebrations takes second place to the universal celebration of Christmas?
At Christmas, the world rejoices because God sent his Son Jesus who humbly entered our world as a new-born infant. Easter however, connects the violent death of Jesus with his joyous resurrection. We know we can’t have resurrection without death, but the joy of Easter never seems to erase the tragedy of Jesus’ death on the cross. This linking of tragic death with resurrected life may dim our Easter joy. We struggle with the idea that death is the essential doorway to resurrection and we are reminded that joy, in this world, is never without cost.
We all experience the eternal cycle of life, light as well as darkness, happiness as well as tragedy---times of joy and sadness, and we wonder, does darkness and death have the last word? Yet, each Easter helps reaffirm our faith and overcome our uncertainty, as we experience again the wonder of Holy Week and face the dawn of another Easter Sunday. It‘s difficult work because our sagging faith often struggles to overcome our fear and apprehension.
What must it have been like the first time? Jesus’ friends were devastated. They had lost the person they had lived with and loved. They had called him Lord and Teacher and he had called them friends. Now he was gone forever, and they were surrounded by darkness and fear. When they saw him again, they were ecstatic with joy.
We cannot duplicate that first experience nor can we ignore our own fear and trepidation. But we can focus on that first Easter joy and place Jesus at the center of our lives. When we rejoice in his happiness, his joy will spread over our lives freeing us from doubt and fear, and securing us in hope and trust. Pope Francis wrote so well of Easter joy: “Moved by Jesus’ example, we are to enter fully into the fabric of society, rejoicing with those who rejoice, weeping with those who weep; arm in arm with others, we are committed to building a new world, not as a burdensome duty, but as the result of a personal decision which brings joy and gives meaning to our lives.” [The Joy of the Gospel, 2013]
Out of the darkness comes the brightness of God’s word and the power of his love proclaimed by the Easter Exsultet: “The power of this holy night dispels all evil, washes guilt away, restores lost innocence, brings mourners joy, casts out hatred, brings us peace and humbles earthly pride.” Alleluia! Mail the cards, wrap the gifts, and gather the family, because Christ is risen!
----Deacon Wilson Shierk