Spring also means the coming back to life of plants and trees that have been dormant for winter, as well as the birth of new life in the animal world.
Given the symbolism of new life and rebirth, it was only natural to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus at this time of the year. The only reference to this goddess comes from the writings of the Venerable Bede, a British monk who lived in the late seventh and early eighth century. As religious studies scholar Bruce Forbes summarizes :.
And even though Christians had begun affirming the Christian meaning of the celebration, they continued to use the name of the goddess to designate the season. In the Hebrew Bible, Passover is a festival that commemorates the liberation of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt, as narrated in the Book of Exodus. It was and continues to be the most important Jewish seasonal festival, celebrated on the first full moon after the vernal equinox. At the time of Jesus, Passover had special significance, as the Jewish people were again under the dominance of foreign powers namely, the Romans.
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On one Passover, Jesus traveled to Jerusalem with his disciples to celebrate the festival. He entered Jerusalem in a triumphal procession and created a disturbance in the Jerusalem Temple. It seems that both of these actions attracted the attention of the Romans, and that as a result Jesus was executed around the year A. As Jesus died during the Passover festival and his followers believed he was resurrected from the dead three days later, it was logical to commemorate these events in close proximity.
Some early Christians chose to celebrate the resurrection of Christ on the same date as the Jewish Passover, which fell around day 14 of the month of Nisan, in March or April. By choosing this date, they put the focus on when Jesus died and also emphasized continuity with the Judaism out of which Christianity emerged. As a result, Easter is now celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon of the vernal equinox. In early America, the Easter festival was far more popular among Catholics than Protestants.
For instance, the New England Puritans regarded both Easter and Christmas as too tainted by non-Christian influences to be appropriate to celebrate. Such festivals also tended to be opportunities for heavy drinking and merrymaking. This was done partly out of a desire to make the celebration of these holidays less rowdy. But Easter and Christmas also became reshaped as domestic holidays because understandings of children were changing. Prior to the 17th century, children were rarely the center of attention. As historian Stephen Nissenbaum writes ,. From the 17th century onward, there was an increasing recognition of childhood as as time of life that should be joyous, not simply as preparatory for adulthood.
Decorated eggs had been part of the Easter festival at least since medieval times , given the obvious symbolism of new life. A vast amount of folklore surrounds Easter eggs, and in a number of Eastern European countries, the process of decorating them is extremely elaborate. Hares and rabbits had a long association with spring seasonal rituals because of their amazing powers of fertility. When German immigrants settled in Pennsylvania in the 18th and 19th centuries, they brought this tradition with them.
The wild hare also became supplanted by the more docile and domestic rabbit, in another indication of how the focus moved toward children. Reconciliation comes with a price.
So into our mess stepped Jesus. His death on the cross paid the penalty due us. His resurrection is proof of its sufficiency. By turning away from our sin, asking forgiveness of sinning against God and asking Jesus to save us, His righteousness is transferred to us, acquitting us of guilt and making Easter and every other day a day of celebration.
Salvation comes from beyond us and not dependent upon our ability to become better people. The recognition of sin being the reason for the season is critically important for two groups of people: Christians and non-Christians. First, Christians.
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There is great danger in wandering too far from the remembrance of who we were before Christ. When we lose sight of the sin that humbly drove us to seek forgiveness, we quickly slip into the dangerous waters of prideful self-sufficiency. Secondly, non-Christians. Christians, how can we call it love of others if we are not willing to help people understand the utter spiritual peril in which they stand before God?
This does not mean berating them with high-handed moralism and expecting sinners to act redeemed. It means love and compassion and service and a verbal testimony to the fact that sin separates but Jesus saves.
Think about it, why would Jesus have to die on a cross if there were another way to peace with God? Sin actually made both Christmas and Easter necessary. We were lost, but Jesus came into this world to save that which was lost. This Easter, pause to remember that your sin may be the reason for the season, but then lift your soul in praise because Jesus is the reason for your salvation.
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Even greater, Jesus is the reason for your worship. Your email address will not be published.
Something weird is going on with Christmas.