Have you ever noticed that no matter how hard the Hallmark folks try, they just can’t make Easter into the kind of holiday Christmas has been from time immemorial? Santa Claus sometimes shows up by mistake at the manger, worshiping right along with the Magi … but you never see the Easter Bunny at the Crucifixion. No matter how hard the commercial folks try, the ol’ bunny is still a fourth class icon of a holiday that cannot be commercialized. Ever stop to wonder why?
You know, the Nativity Narrative is so wonderful. There’s a beautiful young mother, her adoring husband, a newborn baby (not to mention King) … and one can’t help but get caught up in the wonder of it all. It’s heartwarming. It reminds us of when our own children were born … the great joy of welcoming a newborn into the world … of dreaming of all the possibilities this new life represents. The whole thing makes us want to give gifts … be extravagant bringing family and friends together to celebrate. You just can’t help yourself. And the legend of St. Nick who sort of morphed into Santa Claus in our culture represents things wholesome and good … generosity and giving of one’s self.
But the Passion – Easter story is whole other matter, isn’t it? Yes, there is great joy here too. The dead raised … the Hallelujah’s sung … the glory of it all. But it also has a down side … Good Friday. On Good Friday we are called to look upon the crucified Son of God, and make sense of this tragedy. It gives us time to ponder our lives and the sin of the world. We can’t help but remember, reflected in the agony of the cross, our own agony … the things that have gone wrong in our lives … the opportunities to do good missed … the innocent young man tragically slain in a place he thought was safe … the cab driver, trying to eke out an honest living getting a bullet in the back of his head instead of the three bucks he was owed for the fare. In this story … we see the sin of the world which leads us to the grave. It’s not a pretty day … the rabbit just can’t be here … no way, no how.
Yet, in this sacrifice … the Son of God murdered for the sin of the world … we have our redemption. Sometimes I think the cross is too pretty. It has become an icon of faith instead of an instrument of death. Perhaps some year we need an electric chair with the corpus of the Redeemer … strapped in waiting to be fried. That’s what the cross truly represents. It ultimately tells us that God is together with us in all this mess … in all our hurt … in all our pain … in everything that has gone wrong in our own lives and in the world. God is with us! Truly here … he gets it! That deep understanding of the pain of being human … God gets it, and shows us with Jesus on that cross.
But here’s the glory of it all … Jesus doesn’t stay there. This man who understands our pain escapes that final pain by going through it and giving us the hope that we too, through death, will find life everlasting. What a glorious end … what a story of hope and love.
This story is not as easy to process as the Nativity Narrative. We all believe in babies and new life … but it is a challenge in this day and age to truly believe in the Resurrection, and the hope of our own resurrection in God’s good time. But that’s why we are here … in church. We do believe … at least a little … at least some. And even the small amount we can believe gives us immeasurable hope and joy. I don’t know about you … but at this time of the year I pray along with the man who asked Jesus to heal his child, “I believe! HELP thou my unbelief!” It’s our Easter story. And it is the church’s only true and enduring message. God is with us through it ALL. No exceptions!
Have a blessed Holy Week …