I know it may sound a little trite in light of the much more serious losses all around us right now, but I’m just going to say it: I am sad about losing Easter.
Easter is my very most favourite holiday of the year. And at our church, we do Easter big. I literally started planning for Easter 2020 on Easter Monday 2019. I have a google doc called “Easter ideas” and I have been adding to it for months.
At first a little part of me thought Easter would still happen in the way we were used to. When services were first cancelled, we were talking “three weeks,” and that left a little wiggle room. “Imagine if our first Sunday back is Easter Sunday!” I shared excitedly with our staff. “That would be amazing!”
But bit by bit it was clear this wasn’t happening. Bit by bit the reality hit home that we weren’t gathering to celebrate Easter. We weren’t gathering together for a long time. It made my heart sad.
This week I am thinking of all the things I will miss about doing Easter in our usual way. Here is a non-exhaustive list of things I will miss:
- The haunting quiet of the church after we turn out the lights on Good Friday
- Praying with people after they receive communion
- Eating Good Friday hot cross buns in the gym
- Getting the call from our decor team to “come and see the decorations” (because they love to surprise me)
- Seeing our church look the most beautiful it looks all year
- Colour coordinating my outfit with the decorations (and-full confession – asking the worship team to do the same!)
- Easter lilies filling the Sanctuary
- Sending out parking and seating reminders because we would normally be SO FULL
- Hearing a room full of people shout back to me: “He is risen indeed!”
- The worship team leading us in “Happy Day”
- Kids in cute Easter outfits
- Treats after church
- The excitement (and slight fear) to present the Easter skit
- Seeing the joy and reactions to all the Easter surprises
- Dinner and service debrief with our dear friends
The list is long. Easter and how we do it has become so special to us as a family, and as a church, that when I realized we wouldn’t have it in this way, it felt like something had been stolen.
The interesting thing is that a few weeks ago, when life was still chugging along as usual, we had been talking about Easter one evening at a board meeting. Someone commented: “I can’t wait to see what you guys are planning. We’ve come to expect big things!”
Now he was excited and meant this as a compliment, but I admit that comments like this usually make me feel a lot of pressure. A lot of people say things like “How are you going to top last year?” We never actually try to top any sort of year. Each year we seek to create a space to celebrate with joy that Jesus is alive. And each year it feels big. But the next day I said at our staff meeting: “Some days I think that maybe we need a year where everything totally bombs so that we can avoid celebrating Easter becoming too much of an idol for us.”
Yup. I said that.
(And now I want to scream: “I didn’t MEAN it, God, COME ON!”)
An idol, if you are wondering, is not necessarily a statue. It is anything that takes the place of God. It is something that we end up worshipping above God in our lives.
And here is the thing with idols: they ALWAYS let you down. Idols fail 100% of the time.
I don’t think the way we do Easter had become an idol just yet. But this year all those things I had been excited about have let me down. They can’t happen. I have hated losing these things.
This year I also realize that in losing Easter, we do have a gift: the gift to remember that we don’t need any of these things to actually have Easter.
I have loved the streamers and the confetti canons and the rap songs from Aravind and Heavy D (video available upon request…). And I look forward to next year when we can have all those things again. (Yes, I am already planning….). But for this year, I accept that in letting go of these things we may actually find ourselves appreciating the reason we do all these things in the first place.
This year, we can remember in the most tangible way possible WHY we need to have hope. This year we are part of the story of longing in ways we don’t always have space to experience. This year, more than ever, we need to remember: Death does not win. When stories feel over, there is more to come. We live in shadows, but light is coming.
We haven’t lost Easter. In fact, in losing so much of what we do during Easter, we may discover we actually find it.
So let us declare, from our couches, our living rooms, our kitchen tables. Let us declare from behind closed doors and shuttered windows. Let us declare from homes without parties and churches behind computer screens. Let us declare with joy because it is still true:
HE IS RISEN!
He is Risen indeed.
(It’s not our usual Easter service, but if you are looking to join us celebrate this year, our church will meet online at 10:30 Easter Sunday on the Facebook page “Mount Hamilton Baptist Church.” The service will also be aired later on YouTube).