Christ is still risen. Are you still celebrating?
It was easy to be filled with the hope and joy of Easter this past Sunday morning. Especially after not being able to gather for worship at all on Easter in 2020, there was something extra celebratory regarding Easter this year. The purple of Lent turns to the white of Easter. The music is uplifting. The church is full. The lilies were in bloom. The alleluias return and we join in the church wide proclamation, “He is risen indeed, Alleluia!” There is an extra level of energy and excitement found in the church on Easter Sunday.
But now a few days after Easter, is the joy fading? It seems almost inevitable that the Easter enthusiasm will begin to wilt. The plastic egg hunts are over. The chocolate bunnies are eaten. Our homes are littered with empty candy wrappers. A cynical world mocks us for our traditions and belief that a dead man could actually raise from the dead. We’re back to a sober reality—pandemic, economic hardships, and the ongoing list of unpleasant realities of the day. We want to rejoice; we know we should rejoice. But to be honest we just don’t have it within ourselves to remain joyful. How can we sustain the Easter joy? How can we still live in the joy of the resurrection?
Holding on to Easter joy can be difficult, even for life-long believers. The Devil tries to rob us of the victorious feelings of Easter. No one is immune to this. The story is told that one day Martin Luther’s wife Katie decided to dress all in black, complete with a black veil over her head and face. When her husband got home from wherever he was, he barely got two steps in the door before he took one look and said “What’s the matter with you? Why are you all dressed in black?”
“I am in mourning,” Katie declared.
“In mourning?” Luther said. “What for? Who died?”
“God died,” Katie said.
“What do you mean God died?” Luther said. “That’s crazy! God is not dead.”
“Well,” Katie said, “the way you’ve been acting this past week I figured God must be dead.”
Do we sometimes act as if God is dead … as if Jesus was still in the grave? Do we sometimes feel as if there is no hope in life, no relief from despair, no possible end to our troubles? Does our sour attitude spill over into our relationships with others in our home, at work, or within the church? It’s time to rekindle that Easter joy! It’s time to live like the empty tomb matters every day of our lives.
The apostle Peter knew what it was like to live without Easter joy. On the first Easter night, Peter and the rest of the disciples found themselves fearfully secluded behind locked doors even though the Jesus’ grave was empty. But by the power of the Holy Spirit, Easter joy filled Peter as the reality of Easter, together with the words and promises of the risen Jesus, assured him of forgiveness and a place in God’s family for eternity. Peter shares that Easter joy with us as he writes in his first epistle: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.” ( 1 Peter 1:3-5 NIV)
Since death is defeated we live, present tense, with a living hope, with victory-shaped perspective, with un-explainable love, and with inexpressible joy. We live, present tense, because Jesus lives, present tense. Since death is defeated, Easter must not and cannot fade for us. Easter joy is kindled in the heart as we stay close to the risen Jesus through His word, worship, and prayer. Easter joy is joy to share as we live our lives reflecting the love of Jesus. If you find your mood turning sour in the coming days, remember that God is not dead. The tomb is empty. Jesus lives. Listen to the Good News! Remember your baptism. Come to worship. Receive the Holy Supper. Keep that Easter joy alive!
(This week’s devotion was inspired by a variety of similarly themed articles, influences.)