We were always awake and out of bed before the sun came up on Easter morning. With great anticipation, we donned our new frilly spring dresses and white slippers. Sometimes there was even a pretty little Easter bonnet. It was chilly on that late March or April morning, but no one wanted to cover a new dress with sweater or coat.
At the church, we joined a long line of cars making their way out Apache Trail to the butte ten miles east of town. Arriving in the early dawn, we trudged to the top. Someone carried a guitar or lugged an accordion. Looking east toward the Superstition Mountains we viewed with awe the bright crest of the sun as it inched its way up over the hills.
Then the music began. “Up from the grave, He arose…He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose.” Even as a child, I felt my heart swell with joy as we lifted our voices in song after song.
“He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today.
He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way.
He lives, He lives, salvation to impart!
You ask me how I know He lives?
He lives within my heart.”
Why in the world would anyone want to trudge to the top of a hill in the dark of a chilly morning? Couldn’t we sing and pray at church? No need to get up so early. No need to expend such energy—
TRUE! However, I think we just wanted to get as near to heaven as we could on that special day, and we wanted to be there very early as the sun arose for that was when the women came to Jesus’ tomb and found it empty. On top of that butte, we felt the kiss of heaven as we rejoiced at the truth that Jesus is alive, indeed. We called them “SUNRISE SERVICES,” those early morning EASTER events.
Our Pastor read the resurrection story from Mark 16:1 – 8, pausing briefly as he read verse 6. “You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. HE IS RISEN! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him.”
After prayer, we skipped excitedly down the hill. We were on our way to Easter breakfast. A room was reserved for us at the “Feed Bag,” a favorite restaurant in town. We ate pancakes and eggs. We exclaimed over the glory of the sunrise and talked about the sweetness of the service. We laughed and complimented each other on the beauty of our Easter finery. Then we went to church.
What, more church? Oh, yes! Easter had just begun. There would be more singing, more praying, more preaching and more rejoicing. This was a day of celebration—celebration of the resurrection—celebration of new life—new life in Christ Jesus. Not only was Jesus alive never to die again, but we also were alive, for because Jesus died and rose again, I too, had received the gift of eternal life.
Oh, and don’t forget. There was a Sunday evening service as well.
From this long expanse of years, I am not trying to spiritualize everything that happened on Easter Sunday, but I must tell you truthfully I do not remember the excitement of Easter baskets and egg hunts, though I love the thought. I know we colored eggs on Saturday afternoon, and I am sure there was a chocolate bunny or two, yet those things do not occupy a large space in my catalogue of memories. It’s those early morning events to which my mind always returns at this time of the year.
Now understand. I am not adverse to the myriad of Easter symbols we have adopted over the years. I love the fluffy yellow chicks, the beautiful flowers, the cuddly bunnies and the colorful eggs. However, for the most part these symbols find their roots in paganism, but I have chosen to accept them as symbols of new life and that is what Easter is all about.
Did you know, centuries ago, we celebrated New Year’s Day on March 25, Annunciation Day—the day Angel Gabriel announced to a teenage Galilean girl that she would bear the Christ Child? That’s the day Jesus became an embryo in Mary’s womb. That’s the day the promise of new life kindled hope in a darkened world. No wonder we called it a New Year.
So enjoy your eggs and chocolate bunnies, but remember, the greatest and truest symbol of Easter is an empty tomb, for Jesus is not there. He has ascended to the Father, and from that throne on high, He still extends the gift of eternal life to those who will receive Him.
THAT’S WHAT EASTER IS ALL ABOUT!!!
THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!