(First off, I’ve been watching a lot of Jeeves and Wooster lately, so certain phrases keep bubbling to the surface. Consider y’selves forewarned.)
Let's jump right in.
I’ve been thinking about Easter a lot. As a church festival I feel it often has a way of falling by the wayside the slightest bit. But as Protestants to the backbone, who believe in joyously hearty feast days and letting the church calendar (chronicling major events in the life of Christ specifically) shape our days and souls, there’s a rich mine here to be explored. It's like Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Palm Sunday, Good Friday and Easter, leading to the culmination of Ascension Day and ultimately rounding out with Pentecost -- are each a golden jewel, strung perfectly together, each lending fuller meaning and deeper understanding to the others. We need Christmas -- with its celebration of the full Godhead and humanity of Christ, the Light breaking into the darkness, pointing from the very beginning to the Cross -- and we need Easter, Christ's vindication and full rising in the flesh.
Yet while Easter’s a tremendous culmination, I’ve been puzzling over why it feels more ethereal than the others. Of all of the events it’s the most startling. The disciples were stunned and downright terrified. The earth quaked, a huge boulder rolled, rough blood stained Roman soldiers lay knocked out. All of this is a far cry from cutesiness.
Resurrection. New life. New creation. A restoration to the garden of Eden. Ezekiel’s river running out of the new temple and the entire world becoming a garden. Lucy’s loveliest of lovely stories in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is something like it -- for the refreshment of the spirit. Or like the moment when Shasta bends to drink clear spring water from Aslan’s paw print.
“…after one glance at the Lion’s face he slipped out of the saddle and fell at its feet. He couldn’t say anything but then he didn’t want to say anything, and he knew he needn’t say anything.
“The High King above all kings stooped towards him. Its mane, and some strange and solemn perfume that hung about the mane, was all round him. It touched his forehead with its tongue. He lifted his face and their eyes met. Then instantly the pale brightness of the mist and the fiery brightness of the Lion rolled themselves together into a swirling glory and gathered themselves up and disappeared. He was alone with the horse on a grassy hillside under a blue sky. And there were birds singing.
“…‘Was it all a dream?’ wondered Shasta. But it couldn’t have been a dream for there in the grass before him he saw the deep, large print of the Lion’s front right paw. It took one’s breath away to think of the weight that could make a footprint like that. But there was something more remarkable than the size about it. As he looked at it, water had already filled the bottom of it. Soon it was full to the brim, and then overflowing, and a little stream was running downhill, past him, over the grass.
“Shasta stooped and drank -- a very long drink -- and then dipped his face in and splashed his head. It was extremely cold, and clear as glass, and refreshed him very much. After that he stood up, shaking the water out of his ears and flinging the wet hair back from his forehead, and began to take stock of his surroundings.”
I’m not directly equating Narnia and Easter at the moment, but it’s making me think more on the tone I want to foster in our home. Through all responding to the lavish goodness of God. Mystery, passion, wonder, and intense love.
And so now we get to the presents. If all our feast days are celebrating Christ’s tangible coming in the flesh, then I think (somewhere) there should be presents. And if Easter is a culmination in and of itself, snowballing to more and more glories, we need to think how to live this out in real earnest.
The world really doesn’t know how to embody the feast day. Because there’s no Santa Claus etc., from what I’ve read it tends to get lumped in more with the likes of Valentines Day. So we get left with people doing all sorts of rather confused buying, egg hunts, and Easter baskets.
I’ve never been crazy about Easter baskets. Not that there’s anything wrong with the colorful things. It’s just kinda hard to get super excited about plastic eggs and chocolate flavored candies. (Bitter, I know. Acerbic even. ;)) It’s not particularly even the whole goddesses and pagan bunnies thing (though of course that’s an issue). It’s that it’s all too cute. We do emphatically believe God created all the sweet, cuddly things of creation -- puppies and kittens and bunnies and downy ducklings. But when it comes to the great church festivals, I think we must be militantly beware of cuteness. (We can use it, we should just be very certain why we’re doing it.)
I’ve quoted this from The Christian Imagination before, but it’s worth highlighting again: “To many North Americans… Christianity seems soppy. That is because they have not seen the real goods. True Christian imaging meets violence head-on, mine and the world’s, but also God’s. The Christian imagination… must face the reality of Job’s cry, the cry of God’s crucifixion, and of our participation in it. Once this is recognized, faith becomes not only possible, but necessary; it can never again be rose-water belief in Santa Claus.”
So back to the presents.
First off, we’re not talking about breaking the bank. They can be homemade. Or maybe the Christmas budget could be adjusted and some of the gifts saved for Easter. And (if you watch how many things come in your house) this can still have a minimal approach as well. It’s in choosing things very intentionally.
When it comes to children particularly, and thinking on our new white garb in Christ, I love the idea of a new spring/summer church dress for girls. This could work just as well (and might carry nice emphasis) with new pants and a shirt for the little guys too. And this could fit right in too with a smaller, manageable wardrobe. They just wait to get their new things till Easter and then wear them consistently thereafter.
It can be something they need. (One sweet YouTuber mom I've enjoyed watching suggests giving their new swim outfit for the year.) Or a beautiful picture book. Or perhaps something children will share (new play dough or some sort of play set etc, etc). If you’re into games, maybe a new card or board game for the entire family. The idea is to give appropriate weight to it. And (this is a thought experiment) but thinking through the wrapping and presentation. Something wrapped up is most definitely a present -- a surprise. (Or on the other hand maybe an entirely different approach. There’re all sorts of creative presentation ideas out there. The idea is to think on it.)
So there ye are!
I’d really love to hear all your thoughts and if you’re interested in a follow up (including what the Little Princess is receiving this year along with a few home decorations and other ideas) let me know and I’ll try and whip my ideas into some sort of shortish crystallized word form. ;)
Have a lovely evening one and all!