Re | A Reflection on Easter

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Four months ago my son was born. As any new parent can testify, parenting brings equal parts joy and hardship to an extent that is previously only dreamed about. For me, his birthday represented both parts to the extreme. At the end of nine, long pregnant months, during which we planned, dreamed, trained, prayed, and rehearsed for a natural childbirth (we live in revival! we name it and claim it!), our boy’s unstable heart rate precluded a cesarean section. While still coming to terms with the sudden change in plans, they wheeled the gurney I lay on to the Operating Room and, within 20 minutes, my husband was holding him.

When life gets messy the propensity is to despair. I know I can. God? Really? You couldn’t have saved us the time wasted on reading books, doing excercises, attending classes, inspiring our friends, visualizing, concentrating, breathing? Did you miss something? Did you forget? Did this catch you off guard? Is this a joke?

And, even so, the moment the masked surgeon lifted my baby's squealing, pink body over the theatrical drape, everything began. After experiencing a tender, muted relationship for so long, there he appeared in a crescendo of technicolour and sound. That moment was life. Jesus was in that moment.

* * *

Call me a nerd, but as we near Easter I’m mulling over what the prefix “re-“ means. It can mean “again” or “again and again” and it’s used in powerful, life-giving words: redemption, resurrection, restore, renewal, revival.

But it also means “back” or “backward” and we see it in more challenging, difficult words: repel, retrace, revert, redo, resist.

This contrast can be seen in other parts of life; lets look at Jesus' story.

The details of Jesus’ birth, once stripped of their sancrosanctity, can seem backward. We know now that God's divine purpose was working throughout Jesus' life, but without that perspective, the events look almost muddled, as if God was putting on a ill-rehearsed skit. Mary, a teenaged Jewish girl, dreamt of a beautiful wedding where she would be celebrated under the chuppah. Instead, her fiancé nearly left her because he suspected that she had loose morals (which she didn’t) and had to be convinced by an angel to marry her (so he really had to). God, could you not have forseen the census?

Now she had to travel by caravan in a hot climate. Oh, she had a donkey. Riding on a donkey, pregnant, for a close to a week would have introduced a plethora of discomforts only slightly preferable to walking. Now she’s in Joseph’s home town, without her mother or her cousin Elizabeth to help with the new baby. And they can’t even get a hotel room. God, you couldn’t arrange for her to have a bed? It’s your own son. Where was your favour, your hookups? Why a barn, God? That’s not even sanitary. Angels are out terrorizing society’s janitors to give them the news, the only other guests at the party are gentile astrologers. His new parents even have to raise him in Egypt, separated from their family and culture.

Was all that necessary? 

During Easter we recall the victory of the resurrection of Jesus. The crosses around our necks, the Easter crafts our kids return with from Sunday school, the songs we worship to, the meal we eat with family and friends – all of this is a celebration of Jesus’ return to life. To get there though, he had to die. I mean, really. God? Seriously? At the peak of his life, ministerial and physical? He was strung up to die, humiliated and beaten within an inch of his life, between two convicts. You couldn’t have proven him innocent? Cleared his name? Avenged him? At one point it looked like everything broke when you turned the lights out in the middle of the day and destroyed that thick, gorgeous veil in your own temple. Was all that necessary? 

* * *

We share much more than we think with those around us. The circumstances may be different, but everyone has lived through or is living through their own Bethlehem, their own Gethsemane. Whether they know God is Love or they don’t, humankind often questions life’s events. I wonder if this is why nominal and non-believers flood churches at Christmas and Easter. I wonder if we shouldn’t be impressed with the congregational surge as much as sensitive to the unanswered questions that they carry with them. At the finale and premiere of each year the tendency is to take stock. Highs and lows. Health and illness. Promotions and terminations. Births and deaths. Moments of revival, moments of resistance.

What we need is wisdom enough to help each other, encouraging, pointing, “There. See it? There’s Jesus in the situation.” 

What we need most is grace enough to be tender towards each other’s fragile sprouts pushing up through the hard, frosted ground. What we need is wisdom enough to help each other, encouraging, pointing, “There. See it? There’s Jesus in the situation.” What we need this Easter is to recall, relive, revisit and recover moments of life. To listen to Jesus’ voice over our own questioning, whispering, “I have risen. I have risen indeed.”

Because he lives
I can face tomorrow
Because he lives
All fear is gone
Because I know
He holds the future
And life is worth the living
Just because he lives 

- Because He Lives by William J. Gaither