So, Easter is nearly upon us. As a child and from my youth I can remember always liking Easter – it was somewhat second behind Christmas in terms of “looked forward to” events, but only because Christmas presents surpassed chocolate in excitement value. On the Eggs front, my favourite has always been Cadbury’s Chocolate Buttons – a simple little number with exquisite taste, unadulterated by fondant fillings and rectangular shapes. I think a Buttons Egg is for the purists among us. And then there was the challenge of separating the two halves of the egg without breaking them, followed by the dilemma of what do you eat first – egg half or bag of buttons?
Alongside the Eggs there were the two weeks of school holidays with not a lot to do – not so much fuss and bother as Christmas, and not as long as the six weeks of summer which often led to boredom by the end and a craving to get back to school. The craving wore off after about two days of lessons and homework.
For us as a family religion did have its place at Easter. I can remember watching Charlton Heston biblical epics on TV (it always seemed to be Charlton Heston) and then the special editions of Songs of Praise that my grandparents watched. The link between Easter eggs, Easter chicks, bouncing Easter bunnies, the Bible and some bloke called Jesus seemed a little tenuous, but as a child of 8-10 years old tucking into Cadbury’s Chocolate Buttons it was hardly a world-stopping concern.
As you might anticipate, the past twenty-five years or so since becoming a Christian has slightly changed my view on Easter. I still enjoy Cadbury’s Chocolate Buttons eggs (not that I get many these days…), but the real significance of the Christian Easter celebrations has hit home. The Christian Easter story is of course all about Jesus – his dying on the cross and then being raised to new life – it’s a story of huge importance for something that we will all eventually face, namely, our death. I can now see the link between the shape of chocolate eggs and the stone that covered the entrance to Jesus’ tomb. I can see the link between Easter chicks and new life. The link with Easter bunnies, other than a Spring-time connotation, still eludes me, but I guess you could say that it represents Jesus “bouncing” back against those religious authorities that committed him to death.
For me, the fact that something miraculous must have happened those 2000 odd years ago is evidenced by the transformation of Jesus’ disciples – transformation of a small group of men from a frightened, dispirited, demoralised band into a fearless outfit who would rather die than deny that Jesus had risen from the dead. You don’t see such transformation unless something happened. But also, since committing myself to seriously exploring the Christian faith I’ve encountered similar transformations in people today, including myself. The transformations may not be as radical or world-changing as the transformation in the first band of Jesus’ followers, but the transformation is real nonetheless. People move from anxiety into calm, low self-worth into flourishing, weighed down into bright-eyed and energised. It can be a gradual process, but it all stems from understanding the real Easter story. A believer’s New Life isn’t just for beyond the grave, it’s for now.
Probably the best cartoon illustration I’ve seen about Easter shows a tomb in a rock face with the entrance stone rolled to one side. Across the tomb entrance is the sign “Open for Business”. That’s exactly what Easter is.
Open for business…
Rev. Tony Stephens