In shopping malls, men and women wear long fuzzy ears and a bunny mouth fixed in a static grin. Parents and grandparents with their children stand in line for a ten-dollar photo with the Easter Bunny. A shopping woman with a tasteful eye finds the perfect centerpiece. Mothers of girls buy matching dresses with bows.
Two brothers buy ice, beer and Pepsi for the cooler. A boy mows the lawn while his brother wipes down plastic adirondacks for the backyard picnic. Their aunt will hide plastic pastel eggs, and the children hope the ones they find will contain the chocolate Reese’s kind.
A couple buys whole cloves and pineapples for the ham preparation. Another prefers to reserve a ham from Honeybaked. One family makes tamales, another rolls twenty dozen lumpia for deep-frying later.
A family makes their traditional Resurrection Rolls, sealing bread dough around marshmallows and rolling them in cinnamon-sugar. The oven door opens, and sticky fingertips break open the rolls, hollow like the empty tomb and marshmallow-sweet on the bottom.
The preacher prepares his sermon. A youth pastor converts the Youth Annex into the annual “Walk of the Cross.” Congregants sign up for a time slot for this incredible experience. A thirty-voice choir rehearses, and rehearses, and rehearses. Men who will be disciples in an Easter morning drama memorize lines.
These are Easter preparations. Some call it Resurrection Day, and we prepare for the Resurrection! Hallelujah!
As I consider how we and people around us prepare for Easter, I recall a conversation I had with a fifth grader.
In 5th grade Sunday school, my husband and I taught Acts. “What happened to Eutychus while Paul gave a message?” I asked, to review the previous week’s chapter.
“He rose from the dead,” a student answered.
“Right. But before that?” I prompted.
But the student knew and insisted he was right. “He rose from the dead.” Then, adding more details to support the correctness of his answer: “Paul raised him from the dead after he fell out the window.”
I said, “Okay! That’s the answer I wanted: he died. He fell out a third-story window and died.”
The student insisted, “But my answer was right! I said he rose from the dead!”
“True, but I’m saying—in order to be raised from the dead, you have to die first.” (We have nit-picking exchanges like this too often.)
This is the conversation flashback I have as I write about what Easter means to me, and I meditate on the fact that only one thing is required for Easter. It’s not the fancy brunch, or the pretty clothes, or the chocolate eggs, or even the church services. The only requirement for Easter is death. To prepare for the Resurrection, you have to die first.
This was Jesus’ Easter preparation. The Lord had to die first. To get ready for His Resurrection Day, he lived a mystery, entering a mother’s womb. He emerged a babe, in the likeness of man, the very man He created in the likeness of God. He labored among us and dwelt among us. He wept and bled, and He suffered and died, for there is no Resurrection unless there is first death.
So will I prepare, then. I pull out my sheet of Death-to-Self verses and meditate on them. I pray, asking for help and grace to shed myself of all that He does not want in me.
There is no resurrection unless there is first death.
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature:
and greed, which is idolatry . . .
But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these:
and filthy language from your lips.
Do not lie to each other,
since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.
– Colossians 3:5,8-11
(Joining the communities hosted by Ann (Wednesday: “The Practice of Easter”) and Bonnie (Thursday: “Share what Easter means to you”). Click on their badges below to read more community posts on Easter!