Easter is early this year, almost as early as it can be, so by the end of March it will all be over – Palm Sunday, Holy Week, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday and then Easter Day itself (which this year coincides with the clocks going forward).
Easter, it can be argued, is the most important of all the Christian festivals. The date may change each year – for now at least – but the significance of the day remains as important as ever. It is probably true that if it were not for that first Easter Day then the life of Jesus would not have been remembered in the way it was, if at all. Each of the four Gospels tell us the story of his life – albeit in quite different ways. Two of them begin with accounts of his birth and only a handful of other stories are told by all four Gospels but all have the events of Holy Week as their climax and go on to tell of Easter morning in one way or another.
Although we tend to read the Gospels as a biography of Jesus’ life, with birth at the beginning and death and resurrection at the end, the starting point for all those early Christian disciples who remembered the life of Jesus would have been Easter. St Paul, who probably wrote most of his letters before the Gospel writers had even put pen to paper, includes hardly any details about events in Jesus ministry but he does tell us a little about resurrection and from this who he believed Jesus to be – that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures… (1 Cor 15: 3 – 5).
The message of Easter should be at the centre of our faith too as it was for St Paul and those first disciples; everything we do as a church and as Christians ought to stem from the promise of new life that lies at the heart of this Good News. It is a message that brings hope to hopeless situations, purpose from futility and above all life from the grip of death.
If the real reason for Easter seems to have largely been forgotten by those outside the Church, then we must look for new ways of reminding them – for it might just be the Good News story that they are longing to hear when all around them seems dark and gloomy.
So let us prepare to celebrate Easter with joy and celebration as we join with Christians across the globe to proclaim that Christ is Risen, He is Risen indeed – Alleluia!