In the weeks leading up to Christmas, I often read and re-read the different Gospel accounts of the birth of Jesus and the events surrounding it, partly because it’s a powerful story and partly because its my best defense against commercialization.
I don’t usually do that around Easter. I probably will read the crucifixion story once a year, again if a sermon makes me.
I have a theory about this. For one thing, I’m always more excited about a birth than a death. Granted, Jesus’ death signals the beginning of life abundant for all of humanity, so technically this is a birth, too.
No, my theory has more to do with what each story requires of me. The story of the birth of Christ asks me to take pause and remember that I serve a God who comes to meet humanity right where they are, who humbles Himself to the point of being born in a barn. It asks for my gratitude, for me to think ahead to the hope I have in Christ, and for me to celebrate.
Easter’s a celebration, too. But it asks more of me. Perhaps this is why I don’t read and re-read the story for all of Lent. Easter asks me to die to sin – to my very nature – because God became man and was nailed to a cross after being beaten and abused. And he did it for me.
Easter asks me to take stock of the sin in my life and mourn for it. It asks me to nail it to the cross and bear it no more (sound easy? I know. It does… but it’s not). It asks me to remember that I serve a living God, one who walks with me and is constantly rearranging my life so it looks more like one He would live.
It’s not quite as cozy. Certainly, if I use the Christmas story and jump ahead to Easter – because it’s all part of the same master narrative, really – I’ll have the same experience both times. But it’s pretty segregated in our world.
I think there’s a reason Easter is commercialized in a way that has nothing at all to do with what it’s about. At least Santa has to do with kindness and giving and somewhat the spirit of God coming to earth (but even then not much). But the Easter bunny? Seems like a blatant coverup to mask the power of the greatest story of all time. People don’t sell crucifixion scenes in most stores, but you’ll see the chicks and bunnies and candy.
Easter should be a wake-up call for me – to remember who I live for, why it’s worth it, and that death has no hold on me anymore because of Jesus.
That being said, I will definitely eat the pastel peanut butter M&Ms while remembering those things.