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For many people Christmas and Easter are the pivots in the year these days, but it has not always been that way.
For most of history, Easter was the favourite and the most observed. Christmas had to compete with Pentecost for second place.
Perhaps we should not have to choose. In the Christian year both are equally important; it is just that they are so commercialised in today’s society.
Easter is important not because of Easter eggs but because of the Resurrection. However, one needs to ask why it is important to care about something that happened so many years ago. Don’t we have more pressing issues to deal with — wars and rumours of wars, lawlessness, lack of employment, a dearth of adequate housing?
It has been said: "When alligators are biting your ankles, it isn’t easy to remember that you came to drain the swamp!"
And when you are out of work, or having problems at home, or caught up in difficulties that threaten to undo us, it isn’t easy to remember that the resurrection of Jesus matters. Or perhaps, it matters too much! It might seem the Resurrection is one of those great issues so far above us that it doesn’t affect us when the rubber hits the road.
Perhaps the Resurrection is important because it shows how much God cares and is willing to become involved in our lives.
Too often we talk about the Resurrection being important because it breaks the bonds of death and makes it possible to live eternally. While that is true, when we are struggling with day-to-day problems, it is difficult to care about eternal life. Our immediate concern may be to find a job, or get out of debt, or mending a broken relationship.
We need to remember the Jesus who rose from the dead was the same Jesus who healed a leper, gave sight to a blind man, and who healed a centurion’s servant.
Yes, this is the same Jesus as the one who was born in a stable to a teenage mother, the same person as the one who had nowhere to lay his head, and who got along famously with sinners and outcasts but not too well with religious people.
The Bible reminds us that Jesus lived through the rough and tumble of life, just like we do. He did that in a humble place — minus air conditioning, indoor plumbing, central heating and certainly no spa pool! He lived under the dominating thumb of Roman soldiers. It was not the best of human circumstances but it was in the most ordinary of circumstances.
During many years in parish ministry, I have seen people of Resurrection-faith face difficulty. It has not always been simple, but their faith has steadied them when trouble hits. At their best, they remember to ask "What would Jesus do?"
And when they have acted in faith, their faith helped them through the crisis. It gave them hope and assured them that God was with them. Sadly too, I have seen faithless people faced with difficulty drift like a rudderless, helpless boat.
Easter provides an opportunity to start again and to shine like a beacon on a mountain top, reminding everyone our help comes from a loving, living God. Let’s shine this Easter into the darkness of our troubled world and bring light to overcome the darkness; and thereby become a witness to the Resurrection.
- The Rev Graeme Munro is a minister emeritus and interim moderator of the Coastal Unity Presbyterian Parish in Dunedin.