When we were walking to school at the beginning of the week, Little O looked up at me and said, “Why is Easter your favorite, mom? Shouldn’t it be, like, your birthday is your favorite – for you, I mean?”
I answered with geeky enthusiasm, “Because…JESUS!” And he rolled his eyes in the way that a child rolls his eyes at an embarrassing mom and continued his trudge towards school.
He’s not the first one to ask me. Even if the short answer is true, I could expand a little.
Grace is one of my favorite ideas, favorite thoughts, favorite words – it sounds even better than forgiveness. It’s a guiding light for me in daily encounters and big huge decisions. How could I give grace? receive grace? Easter is the ultimate story of grace; God suffering for us so that we may never know separation from him. I grew up with parents who knew grace and gave grace. No one listened to a sermon of my father’s without hearing they were loved. By Jesus. Forgiven. By Jesus. All your sins are washed away….so when I get a day to celebrate GRACE ETERNAL, I’m gonna take it!
To be fair, I also had an (un)healthy dose of guilt in my childhood. I was keenly aware of my sinful nature; how I messed up and could try harder. However, I also knew in my little childhood heart that I was saved, loved, accepted, and forgiven. I always wanted to do better -for my mom, for my dad, for God. In a way that is oftentimes harder to fathom as an adult (death is closer after all), I also knew that I would live forever. As a young girl, I knew in my bones I’d have eternity with the Lord. More importantly, I thought that was AMAZING. Sometimes I drew doodles of heaven… and they looked a little bit like Wet ‘N Wild. Water Slides forever!
I was also a dramatic, sensitive little soul… and the ritual of Lent and Holy Week, well, this little actress ate it up with a spoon. Giving something up for 40 whole days. Taking Communion on Thursday. Weeping in the Dark on Friday as the altar is cleared and the book slams shut. Every year I got so mad again – why did they have to do that to my Jesus?
But EASTER? Oh, Easter. Every Easter our church was FULL. Even as we were growing – Easter was one that everyone showed up for – they brought their families, their neighbors. If they came once a year, they came on Easter. My Father, who was always a good preacher, took it up five or ten notches on Easter -because he knew this was his ONE Sunday with most of these people… it better be good.
“He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!”
And the music… oh, the music. The music was so joyous, so happy! After a Friday night of moan/singing that old spiritual, ‘Were you There’ – we get to wake up and sing “ALLELUIA! HE IS RISEN!” On Sunday morning? Count me in. Sign me up. Roll away the Stone! After 40 days of thinking and praying and being somber, it is time for a festival!
Easter is shiny and new. Lilies covered the altar. Sometimes there were musicians, a brass ensemble, to remind us ‘Christ the Lord is Risen Today’. I always had a new Spring dress. Some years I got up in the dark to join Dad for the Sunrise service…. The sky is always pretty at sunrise, but on Easter morning in Florida… it is truly celestial. Easter was all dressed up in the best of ways- flowers, brass instruments, fresh floral fabric and Sunshine.
The rest of the day was colored glad. My Dad would be in a fantastic mood – the culmination of a week of church. His good cheer was contagious and we would have a big dinner and just be together as a family.
I have wonderful Easter memories.
Sometimes we need a holiday that is religious. I know that social media and capitalism are pushing us to celebrate and spend on many lesser days through the year. National Donut Day, anyone? Easter, to me, still feels spiritual. I take my spirituality quite seriously even if I’m not always the most reverent. I might be the most difficult person to sit next to at church. I’ve been to so many services in my lifetime – sometimes I just have to pull your hair or write on your bulletin or whisper a ridiculous story just to entertain myself. I might do a responsive reading in an accent or change the lyrics to your favorite song. Even my irreverence is dwarfed by the spirituality of Easter. I understand celebrating the onset of Spring (moreso now that I live in the Midwest), but if you’re not celebrating resurrection -why call it Easter? Chicks and Bunnies and Chocolate are cute… but, Alleluia! That’s trans-formative.
Why Easter? It is more than lilies, than music, than ritual and my nostalgia for childhood. It’s the celebration of second, third, and fourth Chances. Whatever happened is done. You are loved just as you are. It is rebirth. It is renewal. It is redemption. It is a reminder that today is but a bump on a road that winds forever. It is everything.