Picture-perfect celebrations frequently fade into oblivion. The celebrations that are somehow off are the ones we never forget.
There was the Halloween in Chicago with unbelievably brutal winds. Trick-or-treating was cut short. Our son and daughter-in-law scooped the little ones into their arms and we protected ourselves from the cutting cold by plastering our bodies up against store fronts every few feet on the walk home.
Our oldest daughter’s 25th birthday was unforgettable. She had open heart surgery at a heart hospital. She was the youngest patient they operated on that day. We rarely talk about that birthday, but we sure remember it.
When our youngest was still in college, she hosted a Thanksgiving celebration at our house and invited friends from campus. The international student bringing the turkey had never cooked a turkey before.
He arrived late, removed the foil tent, and revealed a beautifully roasted turkey surrounded by brilliant orange, yellow, turquoise and purple hard-boiled eggs alongside colorful vegetables nestled beneath the turkey, beside the turkey and protruding from the orifices. Best. Turkey. Ever.
Every one of those days are etched in memory because they were out of the ordinary. They were off—in unexpected and unforgettable ways.
What hasn’t been off lately? In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, life has been turned inside out and upside down. We’ve seen live-streamed funerals, weddings in parking lots, bar and bat mitzvahs without the parties and attend church online.
A 7-year-old grand sent a picture of the calendar she keeps. Every square for the month was blank except for one where she’d written, “milk expires.” There are moments when that feels about the sum of it.
Yet these odd times are a perfect fit for Easter. That first Resurrection Sunday was preceded by terrifying uncertainty. Followers of Christ watched their loved friend and teacher, beaten and bloody, hang from a cross, cry out and breathe his last.
They were engulfed in emotions familiar to many today—anxiety, grief and fear of the unknown. They thought it was over. Everything. Then the women went to the tomb on the third day and found the body gone. Talk about a surprise ending. You think a story is going to end one way and then it ends another. God does that.
Christians believe Christ broke the curse of death and was raised from the dead. The message of Easter is a proclamation of greatness, a spine-chilling chorus of trumpets declaring that God is greater than—greater than our sin, greater than our fear, greater than our grief, greater than our weakness, greater than our pain, greater than our loneliness, greater than the chains of death.
Easter does not offer a panacea for pain and suffering. Far from it. Christ was called a Man of Sorrows. Easter celebrates that in all life brings our way, from the beginning of life, until the very end, in every joy and heartache, in every moment of wonder and in every moment of angst, we need not walk alone.
Easter is a message of good news coming once again at a good time.