by Donald Jordan
“Christ is risen. He is risen, indeed. Alleluia!” With that joyous acclamation to one another and to the world, one would think that Easter and the resurrection of Christ from the dead would not only be a joyous day but an exuberant time as well. In reality, however, Easter seems to be almost anticlimactic in our churches and lives.
For 40 days during Lent, there is an intensity like no other season. We pray, fast, meditate and exert ourselves with mid-week services, Holy Week services, Easter preparations, Easter services, Easter dinners and all the social aspects of egg hunts, baskets, hats, special clothing, family get-togethers and extra duties that seem to come crashing down upon us in the “finish line” of Easter.
Parishioners even question their pastors, “Aren’t you glad Easter is here so you can finally relax some?” They realize that the rigors of Lent and Holy Week mean extra work.
There is even an element of phoniness in our churches at Easter (and Christmas). Attendance at Easter services is dramatically high. People are dressed in their finest. Most everyone seems rather chipper. A breakfast might be served. Trumpets are blaring. Everything is celebratory. While none of these components is bad, it does strike us that some of this could be a passing fabrication, that coming to church on this special Sunday is based on the culture and may not be genuine.
This certainly is evident in the Sunday after Easter as church attendance dips back to normal or even below normal. Gone is the excitement and fervor of Easter. Life returns to normalcy in the Church and world. The flowers fade, and the lilies begin to wilt. In a sense, there is a letdown that begins with and continues after Easter.
Yet, this is certainly not the way of Scripture and the liturgical year. The Scriptures tell us that Christ, the risen Lord, made His appearances to His disciples and the Church, bringing them the joy and peace of the Gospel in His life, death and resurrection. When they were sad and forlorn, He came to them bodily, instilling in them a confident faith. He spoke to them, charging the apostles with the task of administering the Office of the Keys as they preached the Gospel and administered the Sacraments to a dying world. As they did, the Church grew and became emboldened in the proclamation of the Gospel to the whole world.
Easter made a difference in the disciples’ lives. It was not a letdown to them. Instead, it was the springboard for a real life in Christ that is lived each day in the power of His resurrection.
Easter is not a letdown. Christ is risen. We are raised to new life in Baptism each day. The celebration continues for 40 days until the Ascension of our Lord and the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost. So, come Easter, let the rejoicing begin.
The Rev. Donald Jordan is pastor of Redeemer Evangelical Lutheran Church, Chico, Calif.
**This article was first published in the print The Lutheran Witness.