Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Holiday Some People Love to Hate

As holidays go, it seems Easter occupies one of the bottom rungs on the marketing ladder. Sure, it has Easter bunnies, jellybeans and candy rabbits, but it definitely lacks the hype of Christmas, or even Thanksgiving.

Christmas has Santa Claus, reindeer, elves, greeting cards, wrapping paper, trees and tinsel, carols, TV specials, and a selling machine that now begins around the middle of September. Thanksgiving has turkey and dressing, pilgrims, pumpkin pie, parades, stomach-busting feasts, and football games.

By contrast, about all Easter really has is…Jesus Christ. And that’s as it should be.

Symbols that surround Easter – like three crosses on Calvary and an empty tomb – aren’t the stuff that make Madison Avenue ad agencies jump for joy, but for followers of Jesus they are indispensable elements of their faith. Without the cross and the vacated tomb representing the resurrected Christ, there would be no cause for either Christmas or Thanksgiving. At least not in a spiritual sense.

And maybe that’s why Easter will never rise to the top of the all-time holiday hits list.

Because there’s something about a cross, and a tomb that’s empty, and a resurrected Lord who declares, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

Because when so many in the world argue, “Well, if there is a God, I believe there are many ways to God,” Jesus simply replies, “That’s not so.” Instead, He affirms, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).

Because God says we need not fear death – with only one condition: Jesus. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” (John 3:16-18).

My last post was about names and the power of names, ones that can evoke strong mental and emotional responses. The Bible asserts there is one name that defies comparison: “Therefore God exalted him (Jesus) to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name” (Philippians 2:9).

What is the impact of this name, Jesus? The passage continues, “that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11).

To this some might state, “This doesn’t sound very inclusive!” Others might protest, “Where is the tolerance in that?”

The “tolerance” is in Jesus going to the cross, not for any wrong He had done, but for all of the wrongs – the sins – others had done. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). He literally hated the sin but loved the sinners, dying on our behalf.

And then, He offered not only forgiveness but also a transforming new life. “We were therefore buried with him in baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Romans 6:4).

So I’m glad Easter doesn’t rank with Christmas or even Thanksgiving in terms of commercial holidays. Because it’s about a gift, a reason for celebration that is priceless beyond anything this world could ever offer. Something that, sadly, some people so resent that they hate the day for what it means.

Easter commemorates the day when an angel proclaimed to the women who had come to visit the grave of Jesus that “He is not here; he has risen, just as he said” (Matthew 28:6).

And because of this, every man, woman and child who professes the name of Jesus – the entire worldwide body of Christ – can declare, “Hallelujah!”

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