Friday, March 30, 2012

Atoning Acts and Fuzzy Bunnies?!

If you are like me, you may find yourself wondering why we do certain things.  I think a lot to be honest.  To be certain, it is a blessing and a curse.  Would part of me just like to hide some candy-filled plastic eggs, fill the baskets, watch the kids "eek" with excitement over their goodies as I inadvertently water down Christ's resurrection by 'teaching' them how to celebrate the holiest of holy days?  Then of course, we may need to make sure they are all nice and pretty or good and handsome so when we arrive at church everyone can oohh and aahh over one another?  Commenting on hair and shoes and dresses flowers and oh, that's right...we are celebrating the gift of eternal life today, relegated by our actions to second place.  Does part of me want to do this?  No, not really to be honest.  Do I like my children to be happy and be excited about celebrating.  Do I like chocolate?  Yes, of course!  But more than that, I want them to understand the reason we are celebrating and the truth about the resurrection.  I also want them to understand the subtle tricks of society.  I want them to realize the world will always tell us one thing, but the Word is the standard from which we should address life.  The Word made flesh to be specific.  

So, with Easter just around the corner, I pose this question to you: What does Christ's atoning act on the cross, his subsequent death and resurrection have to do with fuzzy bunnies and chocolate eggs?  When Christ appeared to Mary Magdalene, did he say, "Wow, Mary...that is a stunning Easter dress you have on.  And woo-wee look at those shoes?  Are they Jimmy Choos?  Love those bunny ears, girl!  Pass me a piece of that cross-shaped chocolate bar!"  No, that is not what John 20:15-18 tells us happened.  In short, Mary was weeping and grieving the 'loss' of Jesus.  When he appeared to her, he basically said, "Go to my brothers and tell them the story is not over.  Death did not defeat our God!"  Now, if you are so excited about that news, and believe me I can relate to the sheer joy that comes from knowing He is Risen, that you want to fill up baskets with candy, hide some eggs, and have a feast of sugar and ham, so be it.  I want to celebrate too.  And we will.  Please, however, just take some time to understand the history of the our 'bunny and eggs' version of Easter and see if that matches what God has placed on your heart.  Furthermore, as always, please do not forget to remember how our consumer choices affect others.  Know where your chocolate comes from and be sure it is not produced using slave labor.  Know where your trinkets are made and if possible, try to envision every hand that has touched a product before it arrived in your shopping bag.  That is hard, I know.  But our Risen Lord calls us to seek justice and part of that is acknowledging how our habits perpetuate injustice.

Here is a brief history bunnies, eggs, and Easter.  Simply put, all three of those things have pagan roots.  Eostre is the Germanic goddess of fertility,  but very little is written about her.  In his 8th Century work, De temporum ratione, the Venerable Bede mentions Eostre as a means to  try to calculate the date of Easter.  The early church coincided their holy days in and around the same time as pagan festivals.  Possibly to avoid persecution.  Possibly to help the Christian message reach the pagan population.  Possibly, if they were anything like us, to achieve harmony and peace with people of varying faiths or backgrounds they just decided, "When in Rome...".  So, in comes Eostre, originally from Germany.  The hare and the rabbit were the most fertile animals known.  The Germans associated Easter with the image of a bunny and the German Dutch brought it with them to America.  Eggs were an ancient symbol of fertility and the Roman Catholic church decided at one point were meant to symbolize Jesus' resurrection.  Why?  I'm not exactly sure.  The Jesus I love is not a hard boiled dyed egg, but I'll go with it because I can see eggs as life-giving.  It is confusing, I know.  Stay with me here!  Oh wait, I can make a connection.  Jesus died and we live by eating eggs, that is eating the life-giving bread of Jesus.  Yay, something kinda-sorta makes sense to me?!  (Not really, though.  Shhhh!)  So, there you have it.  A brief and condensed history of our unfortunate pagan-Christian marriage.  Can this marriage be annulled?  

Anyway, as Good Friday and Easter approach, why not explore some of these issues in your own home.  Rather than ignore and let is pass, ask and answer why we celebrate the way that we do.  Do you see any contradictions with celebrating Easter with eggs and chocolate?  Why or why not?  How do you keep Christ at the center of Easter when the world is pushing everything else?  I would love to hear your thoughts!    

If you are interested in reading about how one church decided to cancel Easter services all together and instead serve the local community, click here.  This, and similar ways, is how I believe Christ would want us all to be celebrating our new life in him.  What do you think?  

Happy Easter, Everyone!  

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