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By Rebecca Koerselman
When asked what my favorite holiday is, as a believer, the correct answer is Easter. But I really do love Easter.
Some of the cultural trappings of Easter appeal to me. For example, I love Cadbury Cream Eggs. When I think about it, they are actually kind of gross, and I wouldn’t enjoy them on a regular basis, but once a year, they are delicious. As a child, they were the crowning glory of my Easter basket…the treat I saved for last. And I love Peeps. Also, kind of gross. But very good once a year, especially with the bits of the plastic Easter grass stuck to the places where my mom pulled the individual Peeps apart from each other.
I also love a good egg hunt. What kid doesn’t enjoy the adventure of a treasure hunt? Now that I’m an adult and a parent, I get to hide the eggs, which is maybe even more fun than finding them. The wackier hiding place, the better. I love a scavenger/hide and seek challenge, even if the challenge is for a mere three-year-old with a small Easter basket.
I love the smell of Easter lilies. The large trumpet shaped flower is inextricably connected with spring, but the smell is my favorite. I love that when I sit down in church, I can smell the lilies up front. I like poinsettias at Christmas, but they don’t give off a scent. Whenever I smell an Easter lily, I always think of Easter morning.
I love the music surrounding Easter. A few of my all-time favorite hymns are “O Sacred Head now Wounded,” “Ah, Holy Jesus,” and “What Wondrous Love is This?” and we typically only sing them for Maundy Thursday or Good Friday services. Maybe it is the mournful minor key with the powerful words, but these hymns seem to capture the weightiness of Holy Week. They are, of course, followed with the classics from Easter morning, “Christ the Lord is Risen Today,” and “Up from the Grave He Arose” (which, in reference to James Bratt’s piece on Saturday, we always changed to “up from the gravy he arose…with a chunk of beef on his nose…”) that celebrate Christ’s resurrection. After the meditation on our sins and Christ’s suffering during Holy Week, by Easter morning, the weight is gone, the tomb is empty, and Christ’s people are ready to rejoice and celebrate.
But Easter isn’t about candy, egg hunts, lilies or just music, of course.
I love Easter because it is counterintuitive, this rising from the dead. Yet that resurrection is the very foundation of our faith. I love Easter because it is unexpected, at least for Jesus’ disciples and followers. In Luke 24:1-12, the writer tells us that the women found the tomb empty and were “perplexed.” Then two men in “dazzling clothes” asked them “why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.” The two men then remind the women of what Jesus had told them about his death and resurrection. Luke writes, “then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest.” I love that the women had apparently heard Jesus talking about these things at some point, but it didn’t register, or they didn’t believe it, or maybe they just didn’t understand Jesus when he discussed his death and resurrection. As a teacher, this passage always strikes me, because I love to see that metaphorical light bulb appear when a student finally gets it and you can see the realization dawn on them. The dazzling men in white remind them of what Jesus already told them and THEN the women remembered his words.
The other things that strikes me about this passage is that the disciples don’t believe the women. Poor Thomas gets a bad nickname, but from Luke’s telling, the entire eleven thought these words an “idle tale, and they did not believe them.” I love that Jesus once again does the unexpected and reveals his resurrection to these women. Not the leaders or the people with power, but the women who followed him. Even his own disciples don’t even believe the women when they share the wonderful news.
I also love that Easter provides an opportunity to rejoice in this hope. Our three year old daughter had lots of questions about Easter and Jesus and resurrection from the dead. They are not easy concepts to explain to a small child, but what a joy to share the glory of Easter. In a world where the good don’t seem to win, the wise are often ignored, the kind are ridiculed, and the poor are oppressed, the truth of Easter restores my hope.
Rebecca Koerselman teaches history at Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa.