- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 24, 2011

Culture Challenge of the Week: “Easter Lite”

“What did you do for Easter?”

It’s a question I often ask people at this time of year. Mostly, I get answers like, “Oh, we had a big dinner with the family” or, “We had a very generous visit from the Easter Bunny.”

I love the rituals of Easter, to be sure. But when I hear those answers — and nothing more — it breaks my heart.

Eighty percent of Americans said they were going to celebrate Easter this year, according to a recent poll, and the festive spring spirit temporarily overrode continuing economic woes: Economists predicted that the average American would spend more this Easter than last, primarily on food, candy and Easter clothing.

What’s troubling is that many didn’t even know what we were celebrating. All signs point toward “Easter lite” — a fast-brewed retail holiday that brought families together to celebrate … what? Bunnies?

Most of us still know, down deep, that Easter is about something religious. With our candy rush and all, however, it’s sometimes hard to remember exactly what it’s all about.

In 2010, the Barna Group found that while 67 percent of Americans rightly said Easter is a religious holiday, just 42 percent described it as the feast of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

That’s partly the fault of believers like me. Those of us who believe in the resurrection too often fail to explain the reason for our joy — Christ died and rose to conquer sin and death. His resurrection saved each of us personally and won for us eternal life with Him. But too often we fail to share that truth with others, even at Easter time — when they might be most receptive to the message.

Perhaps we’re naturally quiet and private about our faith. Perhaps the climate of political correctness makes us look over our shoulder for an ACLU God-talk monitor!

Or maybe we’ve gotten caught up in the fluffy mindset that sees Easter merely as a quaint holiday that provides an excuse for egg hunts and family get-togethers.

(It’s understandable, given the buildup Easter gets in the popular press: The polls asked about Easter ham versus Easter lamb or whether children believed in the Easter Bunny. And the Easter Bunny took some tongue-in-cheek criticism for promoting an unhealthy, sugary diet.)

Now, I don’t have anything against chocolate bunnies and candy eggs — we consumed our fair share yesterday. But I grieve over the reality that there are people all around us searching for truth and meaning in their lives, and what they got instead was a wad of fake grass and a few jelly beans.

The true story of Easter does not have a sugar-coated surface. It is composed of both the awful reality of our sin and the even-more-awesome reality of Jesus‘ suffering and death. In the end, it is the story of God’s immense love for us and power over all darkness — a story of the joy of resurrection, redemption and mercy — not earned, but freely given.

How to Save Your Family: Proclaim the Easter message — all year long.

Proclaim the message of Easter! It’s the most important faith celebration of the year, but it’s a message to be shared — through our lives and our words — all year long.

If you got so busy you missed the powerful truth of Easter with your own family, talk to them tonight about the continuing grace of God that is available to all of us, every moment of our lives. Show them the Christian meaning present in many symbols that form the heart of the cultural — secularized — tradition of Easter.

We live in a richly varied culture, home to many faith traditions. What’s a Christian to do, then, about sharing the Easter message within a pluralistic society? Speak the truth about who our God is and the meaning of Easter — with respect for the rights of others to disagree.

Simply as a matter of religious literacy, non-Christians need to understand the meaning and significance of Easter. Our open sharing brings richness and perspective on the purpose of life. And when our listener accepts the Easter truth as his own, it brings eternal life.

Rebecca Hagelin can be reached at rebecca@howtosave yourfamily.com.

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