Genesis 3:17-19; Romans 8:18-23; Romans 1:22-25
The War on Easter
Many of us are seasoned veterans of the War on Christmas, the campaign to drive the recognition of Christmas out of the public square, replacing Jesus with Santa Claus, “Silent Night” with “Please, Santa Baby,” and the creche with Santa’s workshop.
Is there also a War on Easter? It’s less intense, but real nevertheless:
- Aliso Viejo, California 2011: Compass Bible Church was prohibited from advertising its annual Easter service in a local theater; the ads were deemed too “controversial” because they mentioned Jesus.
- Indian River Community College, FL, 2005: the Christian Student Fellowship was prohibited from showing “The Passion” by Mel Gibson because it was too graphic.
- The Anti-Christian group Beyond Belief Media has been circulating DVD The God Who Wasn’t There to refute the “myth” of the Resurrection.
- Seattle, WA 2011: A public school instructed its students to call Easter eggs “spring spheres.”
- Davenport, Iowa 2010: A city administrator recommended renaming Good Friday
- ”Celebration of Spring” Day, although his recommendation was not accepted.
- Downers Grove, IL: The Park District instructed those supervising the annual Easter egg hunt to refers to the Spring Bunny, not the Easter Bunny.
But Easter Is of Mixed Origins
Christians celebrate Easter as the Resurrection of Christ, but for thousands of years pagans have celebrated springtime as a rebirth of nature and its gods. The Saxons of northern Germany worshiped Oestre, the goddess of the dawn, who faded and virtually hibernated during the harsh Northern winters and was magnificently reborn in the spring. She personified nature itself, and these Northern pagans saw her rebirth in the warmth of the sun, the leaves growing on the trees, and the opening of buds into flowers. They held great festivals celebrating the rebirth of Oestre. Oestre eggs were a feature of these festivals, because they symbolized new life, and in much pagan mythology the Earth itself was thought to have been hatched from an egg. Rabbits were also a feature of the Oestre celebrations, because rabbits symbolized fertility.
Christians celebrate the Resurrection of Christ in the springtime for a very different reason — the Bible clearly teaches that Christ was crucified, died, was buried, and rose during the time of the Passover. But is it possible that God the Father planned for the events of Easter to take place in the springtime for a very special reason — that the rebirth of nature in spring is a perfect picture of the Resurrection?
I think so. This does not mean Christianity and paganism are on the same plane. Christians worship the Creator; pagans worship the creature, the gods who personify the forces of nature. As Paul says, “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.” (Romans 1: 22-25). Paganism is the result of man’s dimmed understanding of God after the Fall, a will that is turned against God, but a soul that retains some “echoes of Eden,” some longing for God, some knowledge of right and wrong, the “law of God written on men’s hearts.” (Romans 2:14-15).
“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8). The heart of the Gospel is condensed into the passage, “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.” (II Corinthians 5:19).
What did God through Christ reconcile unto Himself? The world! Not just the human race, but rather the world! As God said to Adam after the Fall, “Cursed is the ground for thy sake.” (Genesis 3:17). Sin is like a cancer; it spreads from man to all creation. For “the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now” (Romans 8:22), awaiting the redemption through Christ.
This is one of the strongest arguments for Sunday worship. In six days God created the heavens and the earth and all that is therein, and He pronounced the good, and on the seventh day He rested. But the creation is bound in sin, infested with the cancer of sin. So God reconciled the world unto Himself through Christ, Who conquered sin, death, and the Devil on the Cross. His Resurrection on Easter Sunday marks the re-creation of the world, and we celebrate Sunday by worship.
So in the pagan worship of nature we can trace a faint “echo of Eden,” an imperfect understanding of what God had planned for His Creation. There is an old legend of a rabbit who came to love Jesus while He was in the Garden of Gethsemene. Then, not knowing of the crucifixion, he wondered why Jesus did not return to the Garden during those next three days. And then, on Easter morning, the little rabbit was overjoyed to see the Risen Christ walking in the Garden again, and the rabbit left his image on the larkspur for the disciples to see.
Southerners love the legend of the dogwood tree, whose beautiful flowers bloom around Easter time and form the shape of the Cross:
At the time of Crucifixion the dogwood had been the size of the oak and other forest trees. So firm and strong was the tree that it was chosen as the timber for the cross. To be used thus for such a cruel purpose greatly distressed the tree, and Jesus nailed upon it, sensed this. In His gentle pity for all sorrow and suffering Jesus said to the tree:
“Because of your regret and pity for My suffering, never again shall the dogwood tree grow large enough to be used as a cross. Henceforth it shall be slender and bent and twisted and its blossoms shall be in the form of a cross–two long and two short petals. And in the center of the outer edge of each petal there will be nail prints, brown with rust and stained with red, and in the center of the flower will be a crown of thorns, and all who see it will remember.”
So How Should a Christian Look at Easter?
On Easter Sunday, which perhaps we should call Resurrection Sunday, we celebrate God’s plan for the redemption of the world through Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. We celebrate it in worship, in repentance, and in joy.
In a limited way, we can enjoy Easter bunnies and Easter eggs as the natural man’s limited way of understand God’s redemption of the world. But we must keep it in perspective. The world does not redeem itself through some World Spirit or Earth Mother. Rather, the transcendent God, Who is above and beyond His creation, took the initiative and broke into time and space, took upon Himself human flesh in the Person of Jesus Christ, and redeemed the world through His Death on the Cross.
And for us, His temporal redemption of nature fades into insignificance when compared to the salvation He has procured for us for all eternity.
So how is it with your soul? Are you trusting Him for your salvation?