Is the message of Easter being lost in a whirlwind few days of chocolate eggs and bunnies?
And where does the Easter bunny and sweet treats fit into Christianity’s main event, if at all?
Seeking answers to these questions, the Trail Times asked four of the community’s Christian leaders about the true meaning of Easter, and if its significance is being heard outside their church walls.
“As a Christian, Easter really is the most important part of Christian life,” said Reverend Meridyth Robertson from the First Presbyterian Church. “Being that Christ died on the cross for our sins and then was raised again so we have life everlasting with him.
“The bodily resurrection is so that we know death is not the end.”
Carrying that message to the younger generation presents challenges because of the marketing blitz, beginning in early March, that only focuses on material things.
“The true meaning of Easter and Christmas for that matter, is so bombarded with the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus, I think it’s confusing for kids,” Robertson explained. “For most kids now, if they haven’t gone to church or Sunday school, if you did a survey of 10 kids, maybe two would say what the real meaning is.”
So, what does the bunny, eggs and sweets have to do with Easter?
While the first records of an Easter bunny date to the 1500’s, its symbolism differs slightly depending upon who is answering the question.
Chocolate and bunnies are symbols of false hope, says the Minister of St. Andrew’s Anglican Church. “I think the problem our society has with Easter is that we have a problem with pain and failure,” explained Reverend Neil Elliot. “I believe the message we give our kids is, ‘Expect your life to be awesome and full of success.’”
He says it’s ironic we tell children this because few have lived that life.
“The story of Easter is a pain-filled story of betrayal, failure and death,” he continued. “But it is through that betrayal, failure and death that Jesus achieves the victory he came for.”
Elliot says it is incumbent upon the community to be alongside young people who experience the inevitable pain of life, but not by giving them false comfort.
“Not saying, ‘It’ll be okay,’ but saying ‘God is with you in this hurt,’” he added.
Pastor Ron Abresch, from the West Kootenay Lutheran Churches, said in his place of worship, the Day of Our Lord’s Resurrection is celebrated.
“I don’t like using bunnies or eggs as metaphors,” said Abresch, who ministers in East Trail’s Peace Trinity Lutheran Church. “In my opinion, they are too forced. I don’t use spring-time as a metaphor much either.”
For many people in the world, Easter is called pasqua, or pasque, which is derived from “Passover.”
“It is celebrated at the beginning of autumn, so there isn’t a real connection to springtime,” explained Abresch.
He said youngsters often come to church with Easter candy and such, but they understand the difference between the death and resurrection of Jesus and the Easter Bunny.
“I guess I don’t worry too much about bunnies, eggs and sweets that are around each Easter,” he noted. “They are kind of fun and often bring family and friends together.”
Father Bart van Roijen from Holy Trinity Parish, notes that the modern Easter symbols were Christianized from earlier pagan traditions.
The fecundity of rabbits, the tomb-like appearance of an egg shell, the flowers that arraign tables, were re-packaged into signs of New Life, Resurrection and the Joy of the Gospel, he added.
“We must also remember that the Easter message is counter-cultural; it always has been and will always be,” the priest explained. “It requires faith, the ability to see beyond that which is and satisfies our immediate needs, to that which satisfies our restless hearts.”
Easter is much more than, “what happens to people after they die,” he said.
“I am convinced that, if we as Christians truly understood the Easter message, we would be more joyful, more compassionate, more generous, more willing to suffer for the sake of the other, more self-giving, more forgiving, more trusting and hope-filled.”