If you’re like most Americans, you start playing Christmas carols — “O Holy Night” and “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing” — at least a month before Christmas. You spend hours wrapping gifts and hanging lights, jaunting off to countless Christmas parties. But in the weeks leading up to Easter, do you sit around listening to “Up from the Grave He Arose?” or RSVPing to that rockin’ Easter party? Not so much.
Why the lack of enthusiastic preparation for the holiday celebrating Christ’s resurrection? Like Christmas, Easter plays a pivotal role in showing God’s love in the flesh. In fact, Easter is even more theologically significant than Christmas. If Christ did not rise, His claim of eternal authority fails a crucial test. For all Christians, Easter affirms who we are and what we believe. Yet Easter often plays second fiddle — culturally and spiritually — to its December bookend. What gives?
Why We Overlook It
Probably because of its disconcerting nature, Easter doesn’t boast Christmas’ overwhelming commercial appeal. Shoppers give Christmas a much weightier welcome by hitting the malls months before the day arrives.
In contrast, Easter’s preparation period is solemn and introspective. “There’s Lent — a time of sacrifice and discipline, personal discipline — before we can celebrate what’s new,” says Joseph L. Price, professor of religious studies at Whittier College in Whittier, Calif.
Christmas, Price says, is filled with possibility and hope. “But with Easter, even though resurrection is an affirmation of confidence in God’s care, you have to work through the grief of Good Friday. The transition from the grief to the victory of resurrection is so rapid that, frankly, it’s difficult to embrace culturally.”
That transition makes Easter much more challenging to celebrate, agrees Jennifer Mesko of Colorado Springs, Colo. “When you think about it, Easter is really a two-part holiday. Good Friday is rough, and it should be. I have to hang in there for Easter Sunday.”
Upping the Easter Ante
It might require more from us mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, but Christians can celebrate Easter with the same gusto as the birth of Jesus. As Mesko puts it, “Without Easter, Good Friday doesn’t matter; Christmas doesn’t matter; my life doesn’t matter.”
No doubt you’ll hear plenty of Easter sermons this year, stressing how important a role Christ’s resurrection plays. But in a real way, how can you celebrate, tapping the joy and possibility that transcends His death on the cross?
Price suggests that rituals highlight the triumph in symbolic ways. Try visiting a church that holds a sunrise service on Easter morning to give you a visual representation of Christ rising again. Or find a church that has the stations of the cross and prayerfully walk through them. You might also attend a Christian Seder or host your own. Another idea is to devote the Lenten season not to just giving up chocolate but to weighing other forms of Christ-inspired sacrifice.
“Some years I actually add something — whether it be a volunteer opportunity at my church or to give of my time to some cause,” says Matthew Paul Turner of Nashville, Tenn. In the same way, consider adding a meaningful activity or habit to your schedule that promotes spiritual mindfulness in the weeks leading up to Easter.
For Christians wanting to deepen and broaden their faith, Easter represents an ideal time for creativity and proactivity. The absence of all the Chrismas fanfare lets us get involved with God on a more intimate level. If you’re artistic, celebrate by painting your interpretation of the cross or the tomb. You can also respond with a letter, song, or poem to express in a tangible way how much Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and His resurrection mean to you. Or make a meal for someone in need and share the hope of the Easter story with them.
Remember, as much as Christmas, Easter celebrates a story — but this story leads us to an eternal connection with Christ.
Lou Carlozo is a personal finance correspondent for Reuters Wealth, as well as a music critic, author, and studio musician. Follow him on Twitter: @LouCarlozo63.