Easter is Sunday, April 16, and many people will go to church who only attend once or twice a year. Some of these folks only show up at Christmas.
Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ while Christmas celebrates His birth.
In America, apart from church services, we don’t exactly celebrate Easter according to its true meaning. We boil and dye eggs and decorate with rabbits. We buy new spring suits and dresses and shoes and hold Easter egg hunts.
The root of the word “Easter” has been traced back to pagan holidays. Eostara was the “goddess of rebirth” and the ancient Feast of Eostara celebrated the resurrection and rebirth of Earth in the spring.
Easter eggs and the Easter bunny are both fertility symbols that arose from the Feast of Eostara. The pagans also celebrated sunrise, which parallels Christian sunrise services – an indication of the rising of Jesus, the Son of God. Lighting candles on Easter is similar to the pagan bonfires at the Feast of Eostara.
We always prepared Easter baskets for our kids when they were little and we usually had an Easter egg hunt in the backyard for them. But we were very careful to explain to them the real purpose of Easter – to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ – and have that reinforced at church, where we have always been regular attenders.
It’s similar to Christmas, when we put up a Christmas tree (another pagan symbol) and exchange gifts. Although the gift exchange has some Biblical connection because the wise men from the East brought gifts to the Baby Jesus. But again, our children understood that Christmas is a celebration of Jesus’ coming to Earth as a child to save mankind.
When I was a young boy, after the passing of my mother, my grandmother put together Easter baskets for my brothers and me. After she passed, a wonderful lady named Jessie Embrey, who was a friend of my father, did the same thing for us for a few years.
The Puritans who settled America wanted nothing to do with Easter because of its secular origins. Charles I, king of England, declared Easter should be on Sunday in 1647 but Parliament disagreed.
The date of Easter changes each year because it is based on the Spring equinox. The Council of Nicaea decided that Easter should be the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the Spring equinox. Easter is delayed one week if the full moon is on a Sunday, which means it is less likely to be on the same day as the Jewish Passover.
That’s why Easter is April 16 in 2017 but April 1 in 2018. Actually, some Eastern Orthodox churches in Greece and elsewhere still calculate Easter based on the Julian calendar.
Here is the real opportunity at Easter. It’s a time when people are open to talking about Jesus Christ. A former co-worker, who was not a believer, watched the movie, the Ten Commandments, one Easter and we had a serious talk the next day about who Jesus really was.
Easter is a great time to invite a nominal Christian or a skeptic to a service. Most Bible-believing churches in the Tulsa area will have Easter services tuned into helping people get straight in their relationship with God.
Talking about a genuine resurrection at Easter is a great starting point for some folks to ponder their own eternal destiny. None of us is guaranteed another day and the time to be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ is today – not tomorrow.
And for those who know they should be joined to a local body of believers, Easter is a perfect Sunday to go check out a church without being too conspicuous. Some people still dress up for Easter (I do) but in many fine churches, people dress casually and they blend in quite nicely.
What makes Christianity distinct from all other major religions?
We have a Savior who claims to be alive. No one else makes that claim.
Jesus Christ died on that cross to satisfy God’s holiness. He was the perfect sacrifice. And book after book have been written confirming that He really did die.
And here’s the great news – He rose from the dead. Because Jesus arose from the dead, all Christians have that hope, that someday when we die, we will go to Heaven and spend eternity with Christ.
And all it takes is to believe in Jesus Christ.
If you are not sure of your faith, find a Bible-believing church and talk to a minister or lay leader. They can show you the path to salvation.
Get your life straight with Jesus.
Then go help your kids or grandkids find some Easter eggs in the backyard.