From the desk of  ...  Preston H. Hazzard, Sr.  ... My Daily Blog    


 

Our Christian Faith
Let's Not Passover Easter
Thursday, March 22, 2012 at 11:00pm

Preface: In an attempt to honor God, many have desired to move away from the term Easter, using Resurrection Day in its place. What could be more fitting or clearer than to simply refer to the day on which we celebrate the risen Lord as Resurrection Day? I can think of no better solution to this topic, but I am aware that many Christians will continue to use the term “Easter” with a clear conscience. I trust that as this topic is discussed, Christians will seek to keep their focus on the fact that they serve the resurrected Christ —  one who has conquered death on their behalf. This reality is what we celebrate on Easter . . . I mean, Resurrection Day.

Early Christians referred to their celebration of the Resurrection as Passover. Most languages still connect the Greek and Hebrew words, pascha and pesach respectively, to the celebration of the Resurrection, using translated words like paskha (Russian) and pasqua (Italian).

The early Christians sought to honor Christ by celebrating His Resurrection with fasting and feasting. Although they didn’t have an explicit command from Scripture, various traditions arose to commemorate the risen Savior. There was never a debate about whether the feast should be celebrated, only about exactly when and how. Unity was sought on the issue, yet the early church fathers allowed liberty within this celebration.

Some who believe in the pagan origin of these holidays actually state that any Christian who celebrates them is unknowingly worshipping pagan deities. We can answer this by pointing out that a Christian who celebrates Easter does not intend to worship the goddess Eostra, but to commemorate the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ. God looks upon the heart and sees His child's intention to worship Him, so He does not mistake it for idolatry.

The date we celebrate today is a reasonable approximation of the Resurrection of Christ with no connection to pagan festivals. During this season, let us focus our attention on Christ and His completed work attested to by His Resurrection, knowing He is the author and finisher of our faith.

Uncle Pete


"Easter Bonnet"
In your Easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it,
You'll be the grandest lady in the Easter Parade.
I'll be all in clover and when they look you over,
I'll be the proudest fellow in the Easter Parade.
On the avenue, Fifth Avenue, the photographers will snap us,
And you'll find that you're in the rotogravure.
Oh, I could write a sonnet about your Easter bonnet,
And of the girl I'm taking to the Easter Parade.

Written by Irving Berlin


Back then, just as now, it happened every year. The churches were packed with strangers. All the women are dressed up extra fancy in bright new suits. And after the service, the kids are scrambling across grassy lawns, looking for something hidden behind trees and shrubs, and just under the porches, along the fence line, and at the edges of flowerbeds.

What's with all those rabbits, new dresses, and colored eggs? Where did all these people come from that are packing the pews?

We often call it an Easter celebration. And as many Christians join in the Easter egg hunts, Easter baskets, and fun with Easter bunnies as anyone else. Christian women often dress up in bright pastels, and may even include new hats. And there are huge dinners and family gatherings, crowded church pews, special Easter sermons, and so on.

But Christians are not really celebrating "Easter" when they celebrate Easter. We're not celebrating the return of the sunshine and longer days, the return of any pagan gods to life, or the fertility of our new crops and livestock.

Don't get me wrong. Sunshine and longer days are wonderful things. And so is a good yield of crops. While most of us welcome certain aspects of fall and winter, few of us would wish to keep the long nights and the cold weather all year long. No, spring and summer are truly good and wonderful things.

But, Christians do not celebrate or worship any aspect of nature.

We look beyond nature to the Creator, the true and living God who set everything in motion and who keeps all things going by His own eternal Word. And at this time of the year, we look back especially and remember the terrible death and the awesome resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. We celebrate His willing sacrifice, His gift of life, and His power to give light to every darkened human soul.

History shows us that pagans were celebrating the return of spring long before Christians existed. And there was also a time when both Christians and pagans were holding celebrations on about the same days. And then, as more and more pagans became Christian, the Christian celebrations overcame the pagan -- both in times and in substance.

So what is it that Christians are celebrating this time of the year?  Why do we even bother to participate and/or argue about the holiday?

A fact mentioned in passing above -- the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ -- is the cornerstone of not only the church itself, but of all time and eternity, as well.

John 1:5 declares: "The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it." Had Jesus not lived, died, and risen again, there would be no light at all in this dark, dark world

Think about it. The eternal Son of God, the very Word (logos) which was God, and which was with God in the beginning (see John 1:1-5), became a human being -- a flesh and blood man. That in itself was extraordinary and totally impossible. How can the eternal God become a human being? How can eternal and infinite Spirit become flesh and blood -- finite and temporal and mortal?

The pagans could never do it.  They had make-believe gods in their sagas and tales that would pretend to be human sometimes.  (But even at their best those gods were nothing more than oversized people in character and nature.)  And any human appearances the pagan gods made were strictly pretense, according to the tales themselves.

But the true and living God who made and rules all things, actually became flesh.  And He lived among us for some thirty-odd years.  He was born as a human baby, grew up as a fairly ordinary Jewish boy, and then lived out a short life as a human adult.  When He went to the cross, Jesus was a mortal being put to death for crimes he never committed.

The whole concept is so hard to grasp, that secular philosophers from about the beginning of the nineteenth century on ... tried to convince everyone that eyewitnesses couldn't possibly have recorded the story of Jesus. They told us that the Gospel accounts were not written down until hundreds of years later -- centuries (centuries!!) after the real Jesus of Nazareth had lived and died.

Messiah had come! The Lamb of God had died! The Savior of the world had risen from the dead! The Promised One was going to be talked about, written about, sung about -- celebrated!

Fortunately, as time went on, older and older copies of New Testament manuscripts were uncovered, some dating right into the lifetime of the original disciples, the actual apostles of Jesus Christ. 

Important fact: God does impossible things. The Bible is filled with accounts of impossible things being done by God, either directly or through those men and women who listened to Him and acted in simple faith. The supernatural birth, life, and death and victorious resurrection of Jesus Christ is impossible, yes. But it's true, nonetheless. With God, as the Scripture says, all things are possible.

Eternal God dies for mortal, sinful human beings. Sinless, holy God takes on sins of the whole world. Fallen, sinful, ruined human beings are made sinless and holy by God's kindness and merciful love. Mortal men and women and children of all ages receive eternal life in God's household.

Because Jesus lived and died, all sins are carried away for whoever believes in Him for eternal life. And because Jesus rose up, walking right out of hell and the tomb, we can all trust God for new life. That life does not begin when we die. That new life begins right here and now, the very day and hour that we place our faith in Jesus Christ.

Because Jesus lives, we also live. And one day, at the appointed time, Jesus Christ will return to this planet. He's not returning as a humble servant, like He was before. He'll return with full power and glory as King of the entire universe. And all who know Him will rejoice, and all who have rejected Him will mourn.

That truth made reality by the Lord Jesus Christ is what Christians celebrate at this time of the year.

In fact, we celebrate it every week, as we gather with other believers. And whenever we break bread together in Christian fellowship, we actively remember the death of the Lord Jesus, who gave Himself for us. As we gather together on the first day of the week, we're celebrating that morning, nearly two thousand years ago, when Jesus Himself walked out of the tomb.

Now that's something to celebrate, isn't it?  That's what Christians are celebrating this time of the year.

Easter, to Christians, is actually Resurrection Day - the anniversary of the day Jesus rose in triumph from the grave, claiming victory over death.  Because He lives, so can you and I, through simple faith in Him.  God provided Himself the sacrifice.  Thanks to Him, you and I have the hope of eternal life with Him.

Won't you trust in Him today?


Belief beyond proof is faith. Belief in spite of proof is folly.

Call or email me if you have questions.


Amen.

Pete, Sr.

 

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