Out of all the major American cultural holidays, Easter has always been my least favorite. A rabbit that brings candy, a world covered in garish pastels, and an overcooked ham. It never made any sense to me. Halloween had costumes; Christmas had presents; Independence Day had fireworks and cookouts. But Easter was in that weird in-between part of the spring, especially growing up in Maine – you couldn’t even count on all the snow to be gone. The presents weren’t as good, and my family had this tradition where us kids weren’t allowed to stop hunting for the plastic easter eggs filled with candy and quarters until we’d found every last one of them – and my parents always hid them really well. By the end I was always annoyed and cranky and would have happily given up some of those quarters in exchange for not having to search anymore.
As a new Christian two years ago, I thought I finally understood the significance of Easter. Christ dying and rising from the dead: yeah, pretty big deal. Kind of the thing the whole faith is built on. Yet that same year, I felt conflicted about missing it in exchange for a once-a-year video game convention. I still didn’t like the holiday, but I knew it was the most important one of the Christian calendar, and thought that maybe it would be bad form for me to miss my first one. In the end, though, desire won out over obligation, and I went to the convention, where on Sunday morning I introduced myself to the fine folks at Gamechurch, and well, the rest is history.
It would be easy to turn this into a story about how God wanted me to miss Easter that year so that I would be in the “right place at the right time”. Or that throwing me in the path of this ministry was His way of redeeming my selfish choice. If you had asked me a year ago, I might have drawn one or both of those conclusions. But now I think both of those would both be painting a false picture of who our God is.
The truth of the matter is that God doesn’t care if you miss going to church on Easter. I mean, He loves it when His people come together to worship Him as a family, to celebrate together as His children. But He doesn’t want His children to gather out of a sense of obligation, or guilt, or even out of a feeling of responsibility to one another.
For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise. (Ps 51:16-17)
Easter is a bizarre holiday, even once you take away all our modern cultural trappings. The bunny, the Cadbury cream eggs, that horrible plastic grass that gets everywhere. Stripped bare, Easter is a holiday about God defeating death. It’s a holiday where Christians around the world cling to the ridiculous hope that one man who died on a cross as a common criminal somehow rose from the grave three days later and saved us all from eternal separation from our Father. It boggles the mind. It sounds absurd no matter how you explain it.
Yet, tomorrow morning at 10:00, you will find me standing with my fellow believers, singing praises to the Lord of Heaven and Earth – even though deep down, I find the details hard to accept. So, you’re telling me that an all-powerful God came down from heaven, took on the troubled, broken form of a human, then died at the hands of the children He came to save, and for that one, awful moment took on the weight of all our bad choices. And this isn’t just a myth? My skeptic brain says it sounds crazy. But what somehow doesn’t sound crazy is the kind of Love that would make such a thing possible. That’s something I’m willing to trust in, and I think that’s a good start.