A View from the Pew: Ready for Easter

Palm_frondsNothing throws off our seasonal awareness like an early Easter. It’s a seasonal version of what we experience with daylight savings. We’re not quite sure how to feel and everything about our celebration can seem just a little off. This happens to be one of those years.

The weather, the flowers and trees, the arrival of pastels and white shoes in our wardrobes—all of these clues that Easter is approaching are rendered useless when the date comes early. One week you’re shoveling snow and the next the children of the church are waving palm fronds. You are left scrambling to get that new dress or suit after the egg hunt the day before Easter.

An early Easter has other hardships, of course. If your tradition is an outdoor Easter sunrise service, you’ll probably have to brace for cold. Your typical Easter lunch floral centerpiece, handpicked from your garden, is sparse because nothing has quite bloomed yet. Due to the religiously unaware school calendar, you may be weeks away from Spring Break when you could spend the holiday with family or enjoy other family traditions.

I am a person of certainty and predictability. I crave order, repetition, and routine. Easter is one of those holidays that has me forever guessing, sometimes right up to the week, because of its fascinating if not puzzling tie to the transient “first full moon of the Spring Equinox” (which brought us an historically early Easter in 2008). And yet, still I look for clues as to its approach. Still I form expectations.

But as much as I like order, there is something healthy and scriptural about an Easter surprise. It better puts me in touch with the emotion of the resurrection, an event no one was prepared for. Early Easter helps to disarm my pat assumptions, my ability to dismiss the miraculous with advanced planning and distraction. One minute, I’m sitting in worship contemplating the Lenten journey of repentance, and suddenly, I’m singing “Up from the Grave He Arose,” and wondering what a resurrected Lord truly means.

My wife and I have discovered that in our consumption of entertainment or family outings, the unexpected makes for more memorable and enjoyable experiences. I think that our anticipation of a thing is usually better than the thing itself, but when we’re surprised or our expectations are truly exceeded and my cynicism is undone. Likewise, an early-arriving Easter can dismantle my familiarity with the sacred, undermine my cynicism, and exceed all expectations.

Early Easter may mean we hide our eggs under leafless ornamentals or next to bulb buds in the flower bed. It may mean we have to wear last year’s pastel tie and our shoes aren’t shined. It could cause us to miss time with family or having to alter a family tradition or two. But Early Easter can also shock us back into touch with a profound, inexplicable event that shapes our theology, grounds our perspective, and gives us hope.

Maybe you should let this Easter overtake you on purpose. Try not to plan too much for how you will celebrate and let spontaneity reign. You might find that your Easter looks more like the first one than you could have imagined.

Lance Wallace_for_webLance Wallace is a Baptist layperson who does media relations for the Georgia Institute of Technology. He previously served as Director of Communications with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. Lance blogs at newsouthessays.com.

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