Easter hope and faith
Easter, like Christmas, is one of those Christian festivals that goes on well after ‘the day’ in Church circles, even though much of the world, especially the commercial parts of it, move one very quickly to ‘the next thing’. Christmas carries on until at least Epiphany (6th January) with some saying it goes on until Candlemas (2nd February). Similarly, Easter lasts until Pentecost Sunday, which is 50 days later.
So, how are you celebrating Easter this year, given that we can’t do as we please? There are restrictions on where we can go and who we can go with. There was even a debate in the media as to whether Easter Eggs counted as essential shopping. I think that was a storm in a teacup really, and I hope that if you wanted chocolate for Easter that you managed to get some, whatever shape it comes in – eggs, bunnies, your favourite box of choccies, or simply a slab of chocolate. Chocolate is certainly one of the foods of celebration in this country, and Easter is certainly something to celebrate – even, or perhaps especially, in these strange and worrying times.
Easter is the culmination of Holy Week, and of the 40 days of Lent before that. I heard someone say that this year Lent has been the ‘Lentiest Lent’ they’d ever experienced. The pandemic seems to have put the whole world on a Lenten journey. Celebrations have been cancelled. Places of gathering closed. TV and radio bringing so much bad news. We’re all living under a veil of uncertainty and, in some cases, fear. It’s as if we’re stuck on Good Friday. Stuck at the foot of the cross, cradling our dashed hopes as we realise that Jesus has actually died. Wondering how it could come to this. Wondering what on earth the future holds now.
I’m not denying the seriousness of where we are across the world, but others have felt this scared and abandoned before. The word unprecedented has rightly been used about this pandemic – but at the same time, others have faced despair before. Easter faith is a finely balanced thing – it takes Good Friday with full seriousness and celebrates the overcoming of that horrid event, and the hope that a better future lies ahead.
Some 70-odd years ago, the following lines were found scratched onto the wall of a German concentration camp:
I believe in the sun even when it is not shining.
I believe in love even when I cannot feel it.
I believe in God even when He is silent.
In the midst of horror, someone declared their faith in God despite what they saw and felt.
Faith and hope go together. And right now, the world needs hopeful people and, if we really hear the good news of Easter, that’s what we can be. It is Easter hope that frees us up for service of others, even at cost to ourselves. It’s that same hope that separates reasonable caution from obsessive fear. That same hope that believes science will overcome Covid-19, and that economies will recover. But above all, Easter shows us that, if all else fails, as it did in the life of Jesus Christ, hope and faith together will give us the courage to carry on.
Whatever form your Easter celebrations are taking, I pray that you are strengthened by knowing that we are all in the hands of the God who raised Jesus even from death. May I wish you a happy and hopeful Easter……