As you look ahead to Holy Week, it is clear that our Easter celebrations are very different from those at Christmas. One of the Lenten devotionals that Lori and I have come to love (Bread and Wine, Orbis Books, 2003) contains some thoughts on this theme from writer Frederica Mathewes-Green.
“It’s that time of year again, when school children are coloring pictures of Jesus hanging from a cross, and shop-owners fill their windows with gaily colored cutouts of the Flogging at the Pillar. In the malls everyone’s humming along with seasonal hits on the sound system, like “O Sacred Head Now Wounded” (did you hear the Chipmunks’ version?)… Yes, it’s beginning to look a lot like Easter. Somehow we just don’t make the same boisterous fun of Holy Week that we do of Christmas. No one plans to have a holly jolly Easter…”
The childish fun of Christmas just doesn’t fit with the serious, dangerous story of God dying for us and rising again victorious over sin and death. A story of humanity’s pre-occupation with our own power that caused us to reject God’s suffering servant, Mathewes-Green goes on to note that there is no way to dress up the biblical story of Jesus’ death to make it more palatable. It’s an event that points to our deepest needs as human beings:
“Easter tells us of something children can’t understand, because it addresses things they don’t yet have to know: the weariness of life, the pain, the profound loneliness and hovering fear of meaninglessness. Yet in the midst of this desolation we find Jesus, triumphant over death and still shockingly alive, present to us in ways we cannot understand much less explain. In him we find vibrancy of life, and a firm compassion that does not deny our suffering but transforms and illuminates it. He is life itself. As life incarnate, he could not be held back by death.”