Friday, April 7, 2017

What the Pagans Got Right about Easter

Easter is coming up fast. It's the season for resurrection pageants, pastel-colored candy, eggs and bunnies. And of course, that other Easter tradition—arguments over whether this is all pagan or not.

This year, I've decided I don't care. I don't care for two reasons. One is the two-thousand (ish) year history of Christian Easter celebrations. Maybe the eggs and bunnies used to belong to the pagans. Maybe they got adopted so the new church could be “seeker-friendly” in the first century. But after about 2,000 years, simple squatter's rights say those things belong to us now. Especially since there is a shocking lack of pagans around to fight us for them.  Today's competition for the world's ear is not paganism, it's materialism.

And that's the second reason I don't care if the eggs and bunnies were pagan. It's still a good thing for Christians to celebrate new life in the spring.  Because the pagans weren't wrong about everything,  And when it comes to eggs and bunnies, there's something vital that they knew that we've forgotten.

It's this: spring is a miracle.

 It's easy to miss, when we spend the winter nestled in insulated homes and offices, when the snow is just an inconvenience, when supermarkets bring us the same food all year round. In this century, spring is a perk. It improves the scenery, and gives a chance to go outdoors.  But our lives our busy. I find that I catch spring in stolen glimpses of white flowers on the trees, seen out my car window on my way to another meeting.

It's easy to miss, and it's easy to misinterpret. The Enlightenment taught us to see nature as a mechanism, instead of a revelation. We assume that spring just happens. We forget what it actually is. We forget that the outside world was dead--gray and black, and brown. Leaden skies and leafless trees, dead grass, ice, and water on stone. And when the earth finally turns toward the sun again, and spring arrives, the world is resurrected.

We forget that a seed is just as dead as a rock. And yet that seed, with the sun, and dirt and water will turn into a flower. The fleshy stem, the veined web of leaves, the silver-blue in the spray of petals, all come from virtually nothing. Creation ex-nihilo. No wonder the pagans were in awe. It should leave us speechless. It should move us to worship.

It's not that the pagans were wrong—Paul as much as says they saw the revelation of God in nature. The problem was they didn't have the whole story, and they made up the wrong ending. They ended it too close to the natural world, with gods who didn't heal the taint of death on the human heart. The pagans were right, just not right enough.

As a Christian, I know the God who resurrects the world every spring. I know the power that turns the grey web of empty tree branches into clouds of yellow buds or pink blossoms, also broke the shell of death and resurrected Hope out of the hollow stone of Jesus' grave. I know that every day he is making life out of death, love out of bitterness, spring out of winter.

So this Easter I'm going to fight materialism instead of waving sticks at paganism's grave. I will take pains to watch the cherry blossoms, to touch the daffodils and stare at the blue sky overhead, and not simply rush on to my next task. And I will enjoy the eggs and bunnies of Easter unashamed. Because I know they really aren't symbols of anything. They're examples of the life God offers, extravagant and free, to the world.

 Happy Easter.

1 comment:

  1. wow!!! beautifully written!!! thank you!!! happy easter!!!