It always seems odd to remind people when Easter is celebrated. It is Sunday 12th April which makes it slightly late. Easter is a movable feast and varies from year to year. It would be a lot easier if we fixed on a single date. However, it needs to be on a Sunday to follow the events of Holy Week. Easter Day can occur on a Sunday from 22nd March to 25thApril, which you can see is a large range of possible dates. It is set by the lunar calendar (rather than the solar calendar) and is linked to a full moon in Spring. The full moon this year is on Wednesday 8th April assuming there are clear skies you can look out for the full moon.
You might ask why the moon is so important to Easter? It is linked to Jesus going to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover with his disciples. The Passover celebrations started over three thousand years ago when God’s people escaped slavery in Egypt. They escaped in the middle of the night and the full moon was essential for them to see as much as possible in the dark. We are also told it was Spring, a new beginning. The Easter celebration is linked to the Passover celebration. You might think it is a happy coincidence, however I might argue that there is parallel with Jesus’ death delivering us from the hold of death for our wrongdoing. We are given a new beginning and new hope. It seems much more than a coincidence. It is as if Jesus was building on the work God had already started, and Jesus is the Passover lamb.
As Easter is tied to Spring, we remember all sorts of new life and we have the images of baby chicks, new lambs and baby rabbits mixed into the images of Easter. I am not really convinced that the Easter Bunny with chocolate eggs is really that closely connected! Easter is very much a package which has evolved over time and it is sometimes hard to see all the connections.
I always want to remind people that Easter is the last day of Holy Week. It is a week of watching the last week of Jesus’ earthly life. It starts brightly on Palm Sunday when Jesus is welcomed into Jerusalem with palms and people praising God. There is a real expectation that Jesus has come to be a Saviour. By Thursday he is betrayed by a friend and handed over to the authorities. On Good Friday the same crowd shout “Crucify, Crucify, Crucify!”. It all seems over on Friday as Jesus is dead and buried. His disciples are lost and confused. Easter Sunday heralds a new order as his followers encounter Jesus alive in a new way. Easter comes to us after Jesus’ death. It is not just a celebration but a painful journey that we travel before we get to Easter Sunday.
It makes no sense to celebrate Easter Sunday if we do not acknowledge that our wrongdoing, leads Jesus to Good Friday and his death. The remarkable thing is that death is not the end in God’s world!
Rev. Martin Wood. The Rectory, Church Lane, Cheriton Bishop EX6 6HY 01647 24119 (Tuesday to Sunday) [email protected]