For the first time in more years than I can remember, I was not in church on Easter Sunday. My husband and I had gone camping with our daughter and son-in-law for some much needed respite after a season of extreme stress and sadness. But early on Monday morning I was feeling so guilty! How could I have missed the one service in the year where the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is celebrated? I tried to comfort myself by the fact that all day long yesterday I hummed, “Jesus Christ is Risen Today” but somehow, it didn’t seem like enough. How could I have missed declaring, “He is risen!” followed by, “He is risen indeed!” almost as though the phrase was a secret password for an exclusive club?
Even last night, I was awake fretting over the fact that I missed church yesterday. What would people think? Would they think I didn’t love Jesus? Would my status as a “good” Christian be called into question? Does my not attending a church service on Easter make me a backslidden Christian? Do I need to repent and confess that my heart and soul has been in a period of mourning and I just couldn’t bring myself to put on my Christian “suit” and behave like all born-again Christians are supposed to behave on Easter Sunday? Does Jesus think that I don’t love Him enough to attend church?
Finally this morning, after some quiet time with Jesus in the Word, then praying and listening, I turned to a loving, precious sister in Christ, and shared some of my fears and heart-aches. As I poured out my heart, the tears were flowing down my face as I wept over the grief and loss I have experienced over the last year. And after the phone call ended, I continued to weep with my Lord, sensing His comforting presence as though He had gathered me into His arms, as a mother would her injured child. I was comforted and soon my soul was feeling refreshed. The ringing of my phone gently interrupted my comfortable silence. The voice on the other end was a different beloved sister who was experiencing her own grief and was seeking counsel. As we spoke, God provided a unique opportunity to share the reality of my Easter morning with her. The following is how I spent my Easter morning.
I had the privilege of observing two sets of new-born twin lambs, barely an hour old. New life! They were still struggling to get to their feet, breathing air for the first time, and softly bleating as they explored their small stall. As I described the scene to my friend, my heart turned to Jesus, our Lamb, the paschal Lamb! Isaiah 53:7 tells us, “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” As I described watching those new-born lambs, I was reminded of the unfathomable gift, a gift that I did not and do not deserve, but was given in spite of my sinful self: Jesus Christ and the indwelling Holy Spirit. Watching them yesterday, in that moment, I was once again overwhelmed with the grace of God the Father who was willing to allow His only-begotten Son to die on a cross, to show us His power and love by raising Jesus from the dead to new life to provide a means of communing with our holy Creator. And to think that we have been invited to receive this gift of new life through Jesus Christ! That is Easter – the celebration of the resurrection!
As I ended the conmversation with my friend, it became obvious to me that my heart needed to be reminded that Easter is not about attending a church service, or the sin of worrying about what people may be thinking about me. Easter is about truly worshipping Jesus Christ! As I told my friend, perhaps that was a far more authentic celebration of Easter: to be in a barn watching those little lambs so fresh and new to the world. May I be able to recognize that every day can be a celebration of His death and resurrection and the new life that I have because of that precious Lamb of God!