Thursday, April 3, 2014

Sunny with a Chance of Suffering

Easter is relatively late this year. That usually makes me happy. Not because I want to put it off or even because I need more time to prepare for Holy Week (although that never hurts), but because it means we’re that much more likely to have a sunny, bright, pleasant day for our Easter celebration. That’s good for family photos, it’s good for the people wearing new clothes, good for kids searching for Easter eggs. But most of all, it just feels right, doesn’t it?

The same way a White Christmas feels right. I get really bummed when there is visible grass on Christmas. Or (worse) cold rain or sleet. Or (worse yet) a giant ice storm that destroys the crab apple tree in my front yard. Christmas is supposed to be cold, but calm—snowy, pretty, pleasant, and of course silent. We have no idea what that first Christmas night (or morn or whatever) was like, but we won't stand for depressing rain or raging blizzards—not quietly, anyway.

Likewise, Easter is supposed to be warm, sunny, maybe a comfortable breeze. And, let’s face it, we’re borderline-offended if we have rain or, as was the case a couple years ago, thunderstorms. Why would God mess up his own party like that? That’s just weird.

But here’s the thing: when the baby Jesus was born, he didn’t enter a world that was idyllic, peaceful, silent, and serene. It was a world where power-mad kings who thought they were gods demanded that people make treacherous journeys so they could pay more crippling taxes, where governors who thought they were kings ordered the deaths of babies in order to protect their own thrones, and even the worship of the true God had become big business that mostly benefited a few corrupt individuals at the top. That sounds a lot more like a blizzard or an ice storm than a soft blanket of white snow.

And likewise when Jesus rose again—while he did indeed conquer sin and death—he certainly did not leave his followers to enjoy a perpetual nice spring day. In the wake of his resurrection came accusations, man-hunts, conspiracies and cover-ups, stonings, beatings, floggings, and all sorts of persecution. 

That may be worth bearing in mind as we celebrate these events.

Is it good to take some time to enjoy a peaceful winter night or a bright spring morning, gathered together, meditating on what Christ has done for us? Of course! But if/when the weather refuses to cooperate, perhaps that is just as well. Because it reminds us that Jesus’ first advent—his coming in the flesh, living a sinless life, dying a substitutionary death, and rising again on the third day—gives us life, not just when everything is perfect, but in the midst of our own storms, whatever they may be.

Naturally, I’m praying for sun, chirping birds, and all manner of pleasantness on Easter morning, but if the clouds burst, I pray I’ll be all the more thankful that our Risen King is still the Risen King in the midst of the storm.