Why don’t we make more of Easter?
It’s a fair question. After all, for many Christians around the world, Easter is one of – if not the most – significant date on the calendar.
And yet we at GBCU don’t seem to make very much of it: We don’t (currently, at least) have a Good Friday service. Most of us don’t keep Lent. Other than a brief mention at the start of the meeting, you could have been forgiven for not noticing that last Sunday was Palm Sunday!
Allow me to explain. We’re not critical of Christians who make more of Easter than us. Because of the calendar date (tied to the moon which marks the Jewish Passover), it’s the perfect time of year to reflect on the events of the first Easter. Fasting and meditation in the run-up to Easter Sunday could be beneficial, if it helps reflect on Jesus’ sacrificial death and resurrection. Other dates, like Ascension Day and Pentecost, could be equally helpful for thoughtful prayer.
Furthermore, in countries where Christians are a minority, even subject to persecution and oppression, the keeping of celebrations like Easter and Christmas can be joyous occasions: It reinforces shared identity in Christ. It can serve as a powerful reminder of the many blessings Christians enjoy, even in a hostile world. This is why we shouldn’t look down on those who think these dates are important – because for many people, they are.*
However, we have a few reasons that we’re not in the habit of celebrating Easter (or Christmas, for that matter) in a big way:
Historically, in our church tradition, there was a rejection of the importance of the Church calendar. As is all-too-obvious today, Christmas and Easter, rather than times of spiritual reflection, had become excuses for worldliness, greed, money-making, and sin. Both Christmas and Easter (right down to the very name, “Easter”) were originally pagan festivals, which well-meaning believers tried to “Christianise”. These reasons alone were enough for many non-conformist (i.e. non-Anglican/non-state-church) believers to reject them, because they wanted to avoid anything that had even the faintest whiff of idolatry (worship of manmade things) to it.
However, add to this the fact that for Evangelical Christians**, our behaviour and belief is determined by what the Bible says. It’s God’s Word – enough on its own to provide guidance for how we’re to live. The Bible nowhere commands us to keep Christmas or Easter as festivals. Take all these things into account, and we can admit that keeping them is (at best) an optional extra for those Christians who might benefit from it.
But as I pointed out on Sunday, the biggest reason we at GBCU, along with hundreds – even thousands – of other churches around the world – DON’T “make more” of Easter – is that we DO. We just don’t limit it to one season of the year. We’re not commanded to keep Easter in the Spring, but we are commanded by Jesus himself (see 1 Corinthians 11:23-26) to remember his death every time we share the Lord’s Supper – our Communion meal.
We’re forbidden by God’s Word from looking down on brothers and sisters who treat Easter as an important date. But their enthusiasm for these few weeks every Spring reminds me of just how precious a thing it is to be able to remember Jesus’ saving death every time we eat the bread and drink the fruit of the vine as a family, saved by grace.
*On the other hand, people oughtn’t judge other Christians for NOT keeping particular festivals – see the Apostle Paul’s teaching in Colossians 2:16.
** I appreciate that the term, “Evangelical” can mean different things to different people, both good and bad. What I mean is Christians who believe in the authority and inerrancy of the Holy Bible.