When I was a child, I expected to wake up on Easter morning to find a basket, mysteriously delivered by a rabbit, filled with chocolate bunnies, peeps and miscellaneous candy waiting for me. I also expected to wear sometimes new “Easter clothes” or at least the very best Mom and Dad could dress me in. I expected to go to worship twice – once at sunrise and then later at the regular time. There I would be greeted by the smell of lilies, all my friends, and we’d sing “Jesus Christ is Risen Today.” And, I expected a special dinner with ham and potatoes at the center. It wouldn’t be as big and well attended as Thanksgiving or Christmas, but it would be special. It was these expectations and the anticipation of them that made Easter Sunday when I was a child.
As I’ve started looking over the lessons, thinking about liturgy, and anticipating Easter Sunday worship, I’m wondering what you will expect when you come to Messiah Lutheran Church — or wherever you might go on April 16th. It will be so good to see many of our Messiah family – those we see all the time, those who we see less often, and those who surprise us by showing up and putting big smiles on our faces.
As everyone comes in the doors, I know they will come with expectations. But what expectations? Certain songs? Distinctive smells (lilies and/or sausage?) Maybe it will be the expectation of a fuller than usual worship space. But what else?
This year we will read Matthew’s account of Easter morning. Mary and Mary are coming to “see” the tomb. Not just to see it visually, although I’m sure that was part of it – to see the final resting place of Jesus, to see the end of His story – but they also came to “see,” as in to understand; to try to make sense of what had happened. And they “see” so much more than they ever expected! There was an explosion of activity and sights. There was shaking and lightning-like angelic messengers, there were live people acting as if they were dead, while those thought dead are reported alive. And not only that, it is all happening so fast! “Suddenly,” “quickly,” there was telling and hearing and going and worshiping and fear and joy….
It is all a wonderful account that invites us to bring our imaginations to enter into this incredible event. A life-changing event. Is that what you expect? Not because we will be able to replicate that first Easter with fog machines, strobes, and light shows — because we won’t — but because, just as God was there that first Easter, God will be here this Easter, right here, right smack-dab in the middle of Messiah’s sanctuary. Are you expecting to encounter the living Christ? The one we worship and follow? Are you expecting to leave with fear and great joy?
As I and all our staff and volunteers prepare for Easter Sunday, I hope you will be preparing as well. Whether it has been a while since you’ve come to, “see” God, or if it is where you always are on a Sunday morning, I hope you are considering and praying about your encounter with the risen Christ on Easter morning. History and the Word tell us chances are it will be more than you can imagine!
Between now and Easter, I’d love to hear from you! What are you expecting this Easter? You can leave your thoughts in the comments below.