TGIF: Easter girded believers for what’s behind, and ahead
Easter 2020 was about the time when the worst pandemic in a century hit home for me. Multiple springtime traditions were put on hold, and the uncertainty of what everyone should do to protect ourselves came up for debate.
That debate rages on. The CDC reminds us that COVID-19 is not defeated. If we don’t keep our guard up, a resurgence of the virus or an outbreak of variants will dim the light at the end of the tunnel. More people are getting vaccinated, but restrictions are also being eased, if not lifted altogether. We might end our year-long ordeal if we remain cautious a while longer.
Perhaps it’s not too soon now to hope that history will show that these two Easters provided the “bookends,” if you will, for this chapter of our lives.
Either way, as if on cue, Easter always arrives.
An anecdote holds that this Sunday — Easter, or Resurrection Sunday — is one of two weekends each year when church attendance swells. Someone has even come up with a secondary meaning for the term CEO: “Christmas and Easter Only.”
Researchers have found evidence that so-called CEO worshippers actually represent a small percentage of churchgoers. While Christmas and Easter services often attract larger turnouts, most of the people who attend church are better known as a COO, meaning they “Cometh Only Occasionally.”
Other people are passionate about being in a house of worship whenever the doors are open. Extending the use of initials of corporate officers, let’s label them CFO (“Churchgoers Frequently Observed”).
Anyone connected to a church typically endeavors, if able, to attend services during both of these Christian holidays. As a result, Christmas and Easter — but Easter especially — see a convergence of CFO, COO, and CEO members in the pews of their favorite local worship center.
For many and perhaps for most of these congregants, Easter 2020 was a different type of Christian celebration. Many congregations observed the special day online, either through a prerecorded video or a live Facebook telecast. And for many and perhaps most, Easter 2021 will be a time for Christians to gather again — like it was 2019.
We didn’t know what we had, until we didn’t have it.
However the message was delivered in 2020, it was the centuries’ old message of love and renewed life that’s been presented year after year. It was that transcendent Easter message that was so desperately needed to grid the world community for the days of sickness and sadness that lay ahead.
People responded in compassionate ways. They demonstrated the meaning of putting faith into action. Those with a little extra shared whatever they had with those who had less. When we were unable to gather in large groups, we figured out other ways to remain in contact, if only virtually. Nevertheless, we were forced to cancel or postpone observances celebrating major milestones — events like the birthdays of children, a wedding, anniversaries, and funerals — or visiting shut-ins.
Christian seasons marking the miraculous birth, and now the resurrection of Jesus are fundamental to the faith of believers. They embody what makes Christianity unique when compared to the world’s other major religions. And while it is important for believers to be together for certain special holidays, things we do during the other 50 weeks of the year are even more important.
If we concentrate our participation on only two days a year, we’ve missed the point of why a savior was born and why that savior was raised from the dead. Specifically, we run the risk of overlooking what Jesus did between Christmas and Easter. We run the risk of forgetting that while Jesus walked on Earth, he showed us how we should be living our lives daily.
The Easter story is miraculous. On paper, it’s the foundation of the Christian faith. In practice, the Easter story implores us to do the things that need to be done — loving God and loving each other just as we love ourselves.
Looking back, Easter 2020 is what fortified us during the past year. Today, Easter 2021 can be what will continue to fortify us in the days ahead.
Gene Deason is editor emeritus of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column “TGIF” appears on Fridays. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.