Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

March 27, 2005


Easter’s true meaning blurred by confusing pagan traditions


          Many sweet ideas obscure the true meaning of Easter. I confess that I have been an easy victim of most of these seemingly innocent but truly pagan concepts that have no biblical foundation in Christian doctrine. In many ways “Easter” is merely an adjective used to describe things that have nothing to do with the resurrection of Jesus.

          Take Easter shoes as one example. Growing up, if I got a new pair of shoes, they were bought for me to wear on Easter Sunday. It was a family custom. Mama took us to Sears Roebuck and got us new shoes for Easter. If the farming had been good the year before, we also got a new outfit – dresses and bonnets for the girls and new suits for the boys.

          What do shoes have to do with Easter? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

          Rabbits are another appendage to Easter. One can hardly imagine celebrating Easter without seeing sweet little bunny rabbits everywhere. Many stores will display huge bunnies to attract customers to sales. Little children will pester their parents to buy them a live rabbit though most will settle for a chocolate bunny.

          Chocolate bunnies are my favorite. My wife loves jalapeno peppers. I love chocolate bunny rabbits. Easter will simply not be Easter without at least one delicious chocolate bunny.

          I raised rabbits when I was a boy. My dad bought me a pair and soon I had a dozen. When they got big enough, we had fried rabbit for supper. The project had nothing to do with Easter; it was all about having food on the table.

          What do bunnies have to do with Easter? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

          The list goes on and on. We have Easter eggs, baskets, lilies, and the merchants of course all have their Easter sales. One church appealed for help to come up with three thousand Easter eggs. A man remarked with a smile, “Two hundred of those eggs will never be found by the children; we will uncover them weeks later while tending to the lawn.”

          No church worth its salt will pass up the chance to have an Easter egg hunt for the children. Easter eggs are pretty. They taste good and the children all have fun filling up their baskets with eggs. Who cares that the idea has nothing to do with the resurrection?

          Florists love Easter. They sell hundreds of Easter lilies. I suppose churches make a little profit adorning the chancel area with these lovely lilies. Buy them for six dollars apiece, sell them for eight, and clear two dollars for the missions’ fund. After all, it is a worthy cause.

          Easter lilies hold a sentimental value for me. When I was born in the spring, my dad picked some wild Easter lilies in the woods behind our house. He put them in a Mason jar beside my crib, or so I was told years later. Wild lilies still grow in the woods behind the old home place. I hope my grandsons Jake and Josh will pick a few and bring them to me to celebrate Easter, and my birth, one more time.

          Easter occurs in the spring of the year because the death and resurrection of Jesus happened in springtime, at the time of the annual Jewish Passover. It is easy to understand why we associate Easter with the budding of flowers, the new life of nature.

          Spring is indeed a delightful time of the year. Winter is past and now the earth is bursting forth with the glorious beauty of green leaves, spring flowers, and budding trees. New life is everywhere as what appeared dead comes suddenly to life.

          But what happened to Jesus on Easter morning was much more than the changing cycles of nature. His resurrection was not like the spring birth of flowers. His resurrection was qualitatively different. Flowers born in spring will die. Next spring new flowers may come from the seed or bulbs that have lain dormant in winter. But as much as we may delight in the beauty that spring brings this process of nature is not what Christians mean by the resurrection of the dead.

          The dead body of Jesus did not "sprout" buds from which a new person grew. God infused life into his dead body and he was suddenly alive again. God transformed his old body into a new glorified body. The tomb was opened so the women and the disciples could look inside; the Risen Christ was already out! He had conquered death! The grave could not hold him!

          Lovely flowers and butterflies are wonderful gifts of God. We can enjoy their exquisite beauty and embrace them as expressions of God's love to us. If we like chocolate we can enjoy a chocolate bunny this weekend. Let the kids enjoy an Easter egg hunt. Buy the children some new shoes – if they need them.  But do all this without including these Easter parasites in the same breath with the resurrection of Jesus. Most of all, remember that butterflies and bunny rabbits cannot save you from your sins!
          Some learned thinkers would have us believe that the grave is the end. Beyond the death of the human body, there is nothing more, only dust. The resurrection of Jesus was God's way of saying, "Don't be afraid. There is more, plenty more. In fact, so much more that you cannot imagine in your wildest dreams what a wonderful eternal life I have planned for you - if you will only trust my Son!"

          So enjoy the wonders of bulbs, seeds, and cocoons. Celebrate the coming of spring. But remember that the resurrection of Jesus has done something for you that bunnies and butterflies can never do. His resurrection has opened the gates of heaven and offered you blessed hope that you will see your loved ones again when the Risen Savior welcomes you home.

          This is the faith Easter people enjoy when the true meaning of the resurrection is divested of all the sweet pagan embroidery. That is why most of our churches are filled on Easter Sunday. We must raise our voices and shout with conviction: "Up from the grave He arose!"

          Because He did, nothing less than a glad “Glory Hallelujah!” can adequately express the joy of this morning!  + + + +