Easter is almost over as I write this evening, and as I usually do on this holy day for Christians, I’ve been thinking some about what it all means.
I heard a sermon quite a few years back which said it better than most anything I’ve ever heard — and apologies to the minister who said this, as I can’t remember who it was and where we were living at the time. But I think he would appreciate the fact that I at least remember the thought.
It dealt with the connection between Christmas and Easter, the two most significant days for Christianity. In a lot of ways, Christmas is easy to celebrate — it’s about an arrival, a beginning, the birth of a baby, the coming of a Messiah who would save his people from their sins and give them hope.
By contrast, the minister said, “Easter is messy,” with a wider, more complex range of emotions and human experience. The end of Jesus Christ’s life on Earth encompasses doubt, betrayal and suffering and culminates in His agonizing death on a cruel cross.
But fortunately for all humanity, that’s not the end of the story. After all, in Easter’s story there’s hope at the end — which is actually a beginning, too, a resurrection and re-birth.
That’s the takeaway for me at Easter. It’s a time to remember those who have gone on before us, which always brings emotions of sadness. But it’s also a time to renew in joy one’s own faith and hope, which we need more than ever.
Easter is also the renewal of one meaningful personal tradition. On the day before each Easter Sunday, Jayne and I go to Winston-Salem and meet other members of her family at God’s Acre, the cemetery near Home Moravian Church. Jayne was once a member there, and my mother-in-law, Emma Gordon, still is. Jayne and I were married there in 1985.
Along with dozens of other people, our family brings flowers to put by the graves of loved ones and we clean and polish their gravestones. Jayne took this picture of me removing a year’s worth of dirt and dust from her father’s gravestone.
If you’re ever in Winston-Salem, especially around Easter, it’s worth visiting this Moravian resting place near Old Salem. There’s meaningful symbolism in this place, where each gravestone is the same size, representing our equality in God’s eyes. And there’s also a beauty in the arrangement of the markers row-on-row in the order in which each person died.
Whatever your faith, and whatever your notion of the hereafter might be, it’s a moving sight. Happy Easter to all.