I love Christmas...I love the tucked-in warmth of family time and gifts and the focus that we place on love and human kindness. It is my favorite, in a sense. Every year when Christmas comes I am so happy because of the mystery and the miracle, and let's face it, there is such an element of humanity there--God becoming flesh and being born--mom in labor, baby arriving and guests coming to visit, and then the high drama of parents fleeing for his life and the life of all humanity, all so we can have the next holiday.
But then there is Easter. Good Friday, Maundy Thursday, Lent and Ash Wednesday...this 40-day anticipation. It is not tucked in. It is not even necessarily happy. It is public, and visible, and painful if entered into fully. It is an acknowledgement of the end of life, the truth of who we really are and the judgement that we deserve. It is an identification with the reality that we are sinners, and for 40 days Jesus faced intense temptation on an empty stomach, face to face with Satan and proved that he was not. So for 40 days we remember.
And then this man who was not a sinner, who had a mother, who had a family of brothers and sisters, a huge following and the weight of the world on his shoulders is falsely accused, beaten and brutally murdered, betrayed by one of his closest friends. Good Friday. Good because he laid himself down for us. Horrible in the reality of what we did to him. True story.
Then Saturday. Silent. Waiting. Knowing the end of the story but imagining all that must have been going through the minds of his family and friends. Waiting for Sunday because of longing to hear that one word...
Throughout Lent the word "Alleluia" is omitted from the liturgy. For the purpose of reflection and a reminder of the gravity of our sin, we do not celebrate. We wait.
Last night I had a dream that I was in a church with people that I know and love all around me and it was Easter morning. We were singing the hymn "All Creatures of our God and King" which has a refrain of "Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia" in it. I found myself nearly swallowed in the Alleluias, the highest word of praise. The truth. I could not help but close my eyes, raise my hands, and in the moment was aware of fact that every single person there was compelled to worship in the same way. We were lost to ourselves and completely surrounded by the Truth of the Resurrection!
There is this unspeakable joy that overcomes me every single year on Resurrection Sunday. It is not a time to be tucked in with family and celebrating humanity. This is for public display! This is running through the streets and preaching material! This is the end of death if you will claim it, the end of suffering if you will believe it, the beginning of eternal life if you will have it! This is freedom! There is no law or regulation or ordinance that can defeat it. There is only the hope that we now have, and the joy that nothing can overcome us if we are in Christ. Nothing.
Alleluia. Easter is my favorite. Every. Single. Year. Forever and ever and ever. Alleluia.