Easter is about more than chocolate eggs or bunnies

 

Easter is about more than chocolate eggs or bunnies

Author: 

Gavin Ashenden

The Easter bunny and the chocolate egg are powerful symbols of hope. The bunny speaks of spring and new life, and who wouldn’t want a ‘choc-fest’ at the end of winter?  

So with the motifs of bunny and chocolate egg splashed everywhere to celebrate Easter, it’s no great surprise that not everyone knows what it is originally meant to be about.

When the Bible Society in the UK asked YouGov, a polling organization,  to do a survey of 1,000 children aged between 8 and 15, it found they weren’t entirely sure either.

About 55% said the most important thing about Easter for them was the chocolate egg. Although 20% opted for the cross, another solid 10% went for the Easter Bunny.

As a tribute to the latent creative writing skills and the general knowledge of our youth, a decent percentage were pretty convinced at the heart of the story somewhere, there was a couple who killed a sacred goose which laid a golden egg every day. Another group reckoned Easter was about the story about a hare who raced a tortoise to teach people to be patient.

Perhaps the fact the we go on using the name of an old and venerable pagan fertility goddess ‘Eostre’ gives the kids some excuse for the multiculturalist approach?

Eostre was a well-established core value (or goddess) in the ancient world. There is no historical link between eggs and rabbits and her worship. We get what we know about her in England from the Church historian Bede. But rabbits, eggs and springtime, all resonate with the richness and promise of new biological life. The association, real as it is, is a dotted rather than a thick line, but the dots join nicely.

The prophets of the Old Testament got immensely irritated when the children of Israel would, on occasion, sneak up to the high places and offer her sacrifices when they thought the God who had rescued them from slavery in Egypt and made the universe, wasn’t looking. In the Middle East at that time, she was known as Ashtoreth.

A similar competition seems to be alive and well today; the preoccupation with trying to fix life before death at the expense of life after death.

We don’t exactly worship fertility or the biological imperative, but we come pretty close. Sex and money are the gods for many. A fertile economy is our great preoccupation. We give power to the politicians who deliver it to us, and we politically execute those who don’t or can’t.

The only problem with devoting ourselves to fertility and finance is that we suspect we are made for something more – love and immortality for example. At the end of the day, at the end of the road, when all is said and done and the chickens come home to roost, or the bunnies hop back to the burrow, -there is this thing called death. It makes the fertility goddess look a little ineffective. Life was nice when it lasted, the chocolate cheering while it was here, but it, and life, are soon gone. And then where are we?

For love and immortality we have to take a closer look at Jesus rather than Eostre’s bunny or the prospect of death by chocolate.

Very many people, we discover, don’t know that the Christian celebration of Easter was a celebration of being set free from guilt. We have collected some pretty harsh ‘karma’ along the way (to borrow a word that has become popular); and karma costs. If the universe has a moral centre, we have all accumulated some frightening moral fines for our lifelong lapses.

Jesus’ death on the cross is God himself choosing to pay our moral fine. But the only way we can know if any of this is true, is if he really did rise from the dead.

Equally, many people have no idea that the evidence for the resurrection is powerful and compelling.

At its simplest, the evidence of the empty tomb means the corpse was never found. If the people who killed him took it, all they needed to do was produce it and no one could ever then mis-claim he rose from the dead.

If his followers took the corpse, it doesn’t explain what turned them from a group of terrified individuals who initially hid away in locked rooms to save themselves from torture and death, into people radiant with hope, and courage who carried the Good News to the end of the earth, and were indeed tortured and killed for doing it.

It doesn’t explain how a mass movement of the poorest and most vulnerable could after three hundred years of loving, praying and the severest persecution, capture the heart of the world’s most fascist empire.

If Jesus did rise from the dead, then we can know that death is not the end.

We can know that the people we loved and who have died, have not disappeared for ever into vacant oblivion.  

We are embodied souls rather than hunks of meat with a computer attached, and built in obsolescence.

It means no act of love is ever wasted or forgotten within the universe.

It means we even get to choose love and immortality - if we can ever get beyond the bunnies and chocolate.

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