Many people wonder why I don’t emphasis Easter in our ministries. Let me point out right away that it is not a sin to celebrate Christ’s death on any day of the year. In fact, the Apostle Paul tells us: “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” 1 Cor. 11:26. Therefore, we should be able to celebrate what Jesus has done for us every day.
So why am I careful to put all of my eggs in one basket on the topic of Easter? The reason is that our ministry is aimed to help people who have left the traditional church. Many have been hurt by the church in various ways while others question why we do the things we do. On issues like Easter and Christmas, most Christians celebrate these things because of what men (and denominations) have created, rather than because of what God has commanded. Even I have done the shameful thing of promoting a Christlike fictional savior to my kids while celebrating the birth of Christ only to have to explain later that I lied about Santa, yet I am telling the Truth about Jesus.
Therefore, as a pastor seeking to be as authentically guided by the Word of God (and not guided by the Christian organizations and businesses of this world), I have to be open and honest about the things I call people to do or celebrate in our ministries. Honestly, I wish the Christian community could move past these secular festivals that were Christianized to justify our participation in.
Most of the Christian world does not understand that Easter and Christmas were once pagan holidays that worshiped other Gods. In fact, the name “Easter” comes from “Eostre”, or “Eostrae”, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring and fertility. No Christian who truly loves God would knowingly worship or participate in pagan worship, yet many of us Justify the worship of Eostrae because someone put a Jesus sticker on it.
Now how many Christians today would start to celebrate the 4th of July as a Christian holiday? None of us right… Yet this is exactly what happened when we started celebrating Christmas and Easter. History shows us that when the emperor Constantine was converted to Christianity, he made his entire vast empire become Christian on one day. And what was happening was that these former pagans had some parties and festivals every year where they would celebrate and worship their pagan Gods. It seems that no matter how hard the emperor tried, he could not get the vast empire to stop having these yearly parties. So, what did he do? He placed a Jesus sticker on them and slowly steered the festivals toward honoring Christ.
Even though some may feel that this would be an OK compromise as it has helped to shape Christianity and focus on Christ’s birth and death, it remains a manmade decision (opposite of God’s commands); therefore, there are consequences. One of those consequences is that many of the elements of those pagan rituals can still be seen in both Christmas and Easter. To put this concept into place, it would be like putting a Jesus sticker on child sacrifice. Even though it is not as dramatic, Christians embrace things like the eggs, dead trees, bunnies and yule logs even though they directly oppose the Word of God and edify these pagan beliefs. It seems in every instance, each pagan aspect of these festivals was redressed with Jesus. Sure, the wreath had a pagan origin, yet it sure looks like a crown of thorns…
In short, knowing the history of how we started to celebrate Easter and Christmas shocks me to the core. Will Jesus forgive us for replacing true worship with pagan rituals and celebrations? How did God respond to others who did this in the Old Testament? Is God’s anger kindled when we celebrate Jesus’s birth while knowing that when Jesus walked on this earth only heathen kings celebrated their birthday. Did Jesus want us to celebrate His birth and death in these ways? If that answer is no, they we all need to ask ourselves if we should continue doing these things. Legalism would argue that all who do these things sin against a living God, yet we can’t go that far. Sin will always be a conscious act of rebellion of the heart to God’s will, and many may never feel guilt or shame in continuing to celebrate these things.
But for me and for those I am called to serve, I can’t afford to ignore what in reality is paganism (covered with Jesus stickers) to justify what God may actually condemn. The people fleeing religion are starting to ask the tough questions. They want an authentic Jesus and not the commercialized version of a powerless God. And that means every belief, doctrine, and ritual has to be humbled and placed in front of the Living Word. And the things of man need to go.
We are entering a great time of reform and revival in the body of Christ. Many are fleeing the coldness of religion and seeking to find the authentic peace and joy that only can be found in Christ by means of the Holy Spirit and in unity with the Word of God. There is a growing hunger in seekers to worship in Spirit and in Truth, and there is a desire to keep the Commandments of Christ in order to abide in His presence and allow His joy to be compete in us. (John 15)
Therefore, let us to agree to allow each other to worship our Holy God as we see fit. Let us give each other grace on this emotional topic. If the Spirit allows you to paint some eggs and bring an Easter bunny on stage on Resurrection Sunday, I am glad that you seek to love and serve the Lord. In the same way, do not look down poorly on those who are seeking to honor God by withdrawing from what feels like paganism masked as Christ’s will. For nowhere in scripture are we ever called to celebrate the birth of Christ, and one day a year is not enough to celebrate His death and resurrection as He calls us to dwell on this hope (that results in our salvation) every day of our lives.
The children of this generation are very smart. If we truly want to show them the real Jesus, the body of Christ needs to tear down the worldliness we have constructed on the foundation of Christ and openly and honestly rebuild it with the Word of God as our blueprint. And ever though that is a very scary concept, that may very well be the key to a reformation of structure we may see in the body of Christ as entire generations walk out of religion, flail around looking for guidance, and finally seeking out a purer and more authentic version of worship and true Christian fellowship. As my college professor once told me, “Our methods will always change, but our message must never change.” The traditions of Christmas and Easter may just be something our Christian grandchildren break free of. And honestly, I think it they will be stronger Christians for it.