Archive for April, 2010

I’m always impressed by friends who aren’t afraid to start a controversy. Not the ones standing on a soapbox, unwilling to be wrong, but the ones who aren’t afraid to talk about the tough things. The ones who want to make people think.

I’ve decided to go out on a limb today and share my thoughts, even though I stand the chance of offending a few of the very people I’m trying to reach. I hope you can bear with me.

This weekend Christians everywhere will be remembering and celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:14,19 “…if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.” Jesus’ resurrection is at the heart of the Christian faith. Truly our victory is found in Him alone.

I grew up in a fairly traditional Christian home. My mom bought me a fancy Easter dress every year, often with a pretty white hat to accompany it. When Easter Sunday dawned my brother and I found fantastic Easter baskets filled with goodies, and then off to church we went.

Me in my Easter dress, 1980

Church on Easter Sunday is pretty great, as church services go. Most churches save the best stuff for Easter and Christmas. If you’re lucky the choir sings a cantata and there are all sorts of extra special things, so the sermon is shorter (and the service less boring) than usual. Well, that was my take on it as a child anyway. I certainly wouldn’t classify all churches that way today…but some I probably still would.

And of course, there is a spirit of celebration in the air! It is on this Sunday, of all Sundays, that everything seems possible!

It’s only in the last couple of years that I’ve come to understand the word “Easter” and the original celebration associated with it  really have nothing to do with Jesus Christ. It doesn’t take much searching to figure it out, but I don’t think most people bother to look.

The Mental Floss blog explains it pretty well. Religious Tolerance.org also has fairly in-depth information concerning both “sides” of the Easter celebration. The word “Easter” comes from the word “Eostre,” the name of a pagan “goddess of dawn, spring and fertility.” Rabbits and eggs, traditional pagan symbols of fertility, were associated with pagan celebrations held around the time of the spring equinox. At some point Christians began their own celebration of Christ’s resurrection upon the occasion of the Jewish Passover (when Christ, the “passover lamb,” was crucified). There were disputes in the church over the date for this celebration, and somehow the festivities of the pagan Eostre and Jesus’ death and resurrection were combined (possibly an attempt by the Christians to enforce their ideals on the pagans – actually Christmas has similar roots). The concepts of a visiting “Easter bunny,” gifts, and chocolate were added in later centuries, but nonetheless find their roots in earlier pagan symbols.

So where does that leave us now? Many Christians wish to downplay the eggs and bunnies and bring the focus to Christ and the resurrection. But really “Easter” has been a pagan thing all along. How important is it that we maintain this celebration, that has been in our culture for hundreds of years, as a Christian tradition?

I expect the answer is different for everyone. I certainly respect that for many people Easter is the name that represents the victory of Jesus Christ, and that is a noble thing. But I wonder, would it be easier to focus on this victory if it were celebrated on, say, the Jewish Passover, when the concept of his sacrifice has that much more significance? Thoughts, anyone?

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