Easter is a big deal. Actually, that is quite understated. Easter is the biggest deal. Death conquered. Hope restored. Fear eliminated. Life granted. Christians around the world intentionally journey through the wilderness of Ash Wednesday, Lent, Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday before we arrive at Easter Sunday.
Glorious Easter Sunday. It has long been my favorite celebration of the entire year. It’s a day of grand celebration marked by Easter lilies and the promise of spring; the church family gathered and the Christ candle lit; joyful singing and responses of “He is risen, indeed!”; bread eaten and cup offered; pastel ties and bright floral dresses; ham and deviled eggs and a table full of the most delicious desserts. The very essence of remembering Jesus’ life, death and resurrection is tied to the very rhythm of the earth, with Easter Sunday falling on the first Sunday after the northern hemisphere’s spring Equinox. All of creation seems to shout—Christ is risen! Spring is here! There’s new life in Christ! Out of the barren wilderness of winter, we experience the hope and anticipation and alive-ness of spring.
Except in the southern hemisphere.
I totally get that nearly 90% of the world’s population lives in the northern hemisphere. For 90% of the world, Easter falls in the spring time… a time when trees and flowers bloom and even the cute little bunnies and baby chicks signify new life. But for the other 10% of the world’s population, the celebration of the resurrection takes places as the leaves are changing colors, the weather is cooling, the flower blooms are fading, and living things are in the process of decaying. Where’s the hope in that?
The fact is that the majority of world’s symbols surrounding major holidays come from the western countries that colonized the likes of New Zealand and the great economic drivers of the world found in North America. The rest of the world tags along even when snow in the tropics and pastels in the fall make no sense at all. Granted, egg hunts, chocolate bunnies, and new spring dresses are obvious non-essentials (and… gasp… even distractions) to the celebration of Easter. But if we removed the Easter lilies, sprouting grass, and freshly laid eggs as well, then what would be left of our Easter celebration?
Easter (along with the significant dates tied to it) is the only holiday of the year with a date that is tied to the seasonal rhythms of the earth. Birth. Life. Death. Resurrection. Summer. Autumn. Winter. Spring. But Easter after the fall equinox? It seems so wrong. The truth is, I was tempted to fall prey to a pity party of my own making. No Easter lilies. No bright colors. No anticipation of spring. True, Jesus didn’t just come to save the people of the northern hemisphere, but what about the symbols of the resurrection that tell the story year after year with their rhythms of life, death, and resurrection? Don’t they have significant places in our celebration as well?
Pity party aside. I began to look more closely for symbols of the resurrection among the leaf piles and rain drops. God is so big. Surely the God of all creation has some signs of the resurrection for me (and the 730,000,000 other people) who live on the bottom half of the globe. Baby birds chirping from their nests aren’t the only things that sing the story of Easter.
Lo and behold… I’ve found some—signs of the resurrection in the autumn. Symbols that point to the hope of Jesus even as we are pulled daily towards the wilderness of winter.
Daffodil bulbs. It’s time to plant them. We’re putting them in the ground this week, remembering that Jesus was completely buried. The Romans and the church leaders alike wanted to forget about him much like bulbs lay long-forgotten in the ground. Next spring… sometime around August or September… the daffodils will sprout their heads and bloom, and we will remember that on Good Friday, Jesus was put into the ground, but he didn’t stay there. Birth. Life. Death. Resurrection. Summer. Autumn. Winter. Spring.
Monarch cocoons. Monarch butterflies love swan plants. We have five small ones planted along our back fence. We’ve been watching the caterpillars literally strip the stem as they gluttonously consume all of the leaves. On Friday, we discovered a couple of new cocoons attached to the bottom of large leaves nearby. Sometime this week—Holy Week— those cocoons will open to reveal big beautiful brand new monarch butterflies. Birth. Life. Death. Resurrection. Summer. Autumn. Winter. Spring.
Hot cross buns. Ahhh… food. It’s so important. We like to feast our celebration, and after 40 long days of Lent, Easter is a feast day above all feast days. During the Easter holiday, the overwhelming majority of kiwis do two things: sneak in one last holiday (vacation) at the beach before winter and eat hot cross buns. It’s true—there is more to hot cross buns than a little ditty for instructing budding musicians. Warm buns filled with spices representing the burial of Jesus and marked with a cross on the top have a long history with many affiliated legends. They were deemed so special by Queen Elizabeth that they could only be made and eaten on Christmas, Good Friday (to break the fast from Lent), and burials. If caught baking the buns any other time, you’d have to give them up. We’ll try our own delectable hot cross buns for the first time this year as we celebrate the resurrection, grateful for a reason to feast and the freedom to feast on whatever we want.
Let leaves fall and cool winds whisper of the coming winter as they may. Creation—the very rhythm of life itself—is still telling the story of the resurrection beautifully, purposefully, rhythmically. Birth. Life. Death. Resurrection. Summer. Autumn. Winter. Spring. May the hope of Christ be with you this Easter season.