For some of us it may feel like we missed our chance to celebrate Easter. But the reality is that Easter is just getting started.
Did you know that Easter is a season, not just one Sunday?
One of the most challenging aspects of the Covid-19 pandemic for the church was the growing likelihood, and eventual certainty, that most churches would not be open on the highest attended Sunday of the year.
There was a tension in online services between the words we spoke and the various ways in which these words were spoken.
I missed the opportunity to celebrate in person together. On the day the church expresses its boldest confidence in the life-changing reality of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we were not able to be together because the simple act of gathering together could reignite the invisible enemy stalking us.
I grieved not being able to gather with brothers and sisters in the faith at my church to celebrate the best news the world has ever heard: Jesus Christ, who was crucified, has been raised from the dead!
Christ is risen!
He is risen, indeed!
But these lines aren’t meant to be said by one person. They are a call and response.
This year is a good time to press into celebrating Easter as a season.
There is a meaningful theological rationale for understanding Easter as a season, not a Sunday. The church prepares for Easter by entering into a disciplined season of prayer and fasting for the 6 weeks of Lent.
The journey starts on Ash Wednesday. We are confronted with our mortality. And how many of us knew how relevant that would be this year?
If you count the days on a calendar from Ash Wednesday until the day before Easter, you will count 46 days. So, why is Lent said to be 40 days?
Every Sunday is a “little Easter.” The church gathers together every week to celebrate the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The reality of the resurrection is too awesome and radically world-changing to celebrate once a year. We celebrate Jesus’s triumph over sin and death itself in the resurrection every Sunday throughout the year.
Lent is 40 days because the Sundays in Lent are not fast days. They are days of celebration and rejoicing.
Why does any of that matter for a discussion of Easter?
It’s simple: The good news of Easter is too good to do justice to in one Sunday, much less one worship service. If we prepare and fast for 6 weeks, we must celebrate for longer, otherwise we would spend more time mourning or grieving our propensity to sin than we would spend rejoicing in God’s gift of salvation.
This year there are many things that are out of our control. When will we be able to meet together again? When we do, will we be able to shake hands or hug? What will the new normal be like, and how will it be different than what was normal just over a month ago?
In the midst of the unknown, the anxiety, and even the grief we are experiencing, this is the perfect time to practice a disciplined celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Easter is a season, not a Sunday. May the Holy Spirit lift our hearts in praise and celebration from now until Pentecost. I don’t know if we will be able to join together in person this Easter. But we have 7 more weeks.
I am going to pray for the grace to celebrate well this Easter season. How will you celebrate?
Want to know more about the discipline of celebration? Check out the last chapter of Richard Foster’s classic The Celebration of Discipline. This is a book every Christian should read, highly recommended.
Kevin M. Watson is a professor at Candler School of Theology, Emory University. He teaches, writes, and preaches to empower community, discipleship, and stewardship of our heritage. Click here to get future posts emailed to you. Affiliate links used in this post.