Cultivating holy excitement for Easter

Written by Adam Kline

I have a confession to make: I don’t always get excited about Easter. I mean don’t get me wrong, I know as the Apostle Paul said, “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17). I’m fully aware of the power and purpose of Christ’s resurrection—in principle—but when it comes to my personal experience and emotional engagement, Easter doesn’t always cause the same level of excitement as other holidays. Even though I know it should, and I pray it would.

I came to this realization a few years ago, when I was studying the resurrection in more depth than usual. In the same week, I received an email from a friend inviting me to his annual Superbowl party. Now, this was no half-baked, last minute, thrown-together Superbowl party. This guy goes all out, each and every year. In fact, I think it’s the only Sunday in the entire year he skips church (or attends an early service at another church) so he can prepare a feast for his friends.

He slowcooks a dozen racks of ribs, prepares several pounds of chicken wings, he smokes a brisket, and for those of us with more adventurous taste buds, he even adds a delicate pastry filled with escargot and aged cheddar. It is a banquet of epic proportions. So, as you can imagine, as soon as I read his email, my mouth began to salivate.

And that’s when the Holy Spirit so aptly granted me the gift of conviction. That’s when I paused and confessed to myself and to my Lord: I want to be as excited for Easter Sunday as I am for the Superbowl.

You see, early on in the Christian church, Easter Sunday was the highest of holidays, or holy-days. It was the biggest feast day of the year, and for those faithful disciples of Jesus Christ, their feasting meant so much more because Resurrection Sunday was a climactic celebration at the end of a long, drawn-out season of fasting and intense discipleship.

As liturgical scholar Martin Connell notes in his book Eternity Today, Volume 2: On the Liturgical Year, “what became Lent had its origins in the Alexandrian church, where a forty-day period of fasting and baptismal preparation, already associated with Jesus’ temptation, appears to have begun.” 

In part, for these early Christians, what made Easter Sunday so joyous or rambunctious was that many of their friends, new converts to the faith, were completing their first season of discipleship (or catechism) with the initiating rite of baptism. This was absolutely huge!

It was a party because it wasn’t just about the personal experience or emotions involved, but about the shared, communal experience of welcoming and celebrating new brothers and sisters in Christ. 

For early Christians, Easter was both a celebration for the body, a breaking of the Lenten fast with great feasting, and it was a celebration of the Body, as the community of faith welcomed new followers of Christ.

Today, Easter can sometimes catch us off guard. At least with Christmas, there’s usually some extended time off, a way to truly anticipate and participate in the festivities of the season. But for many of us, Easter—with Holy Week, Good Friday, and Resurrection Sunday—seems to appear in the middle of our usual routines.

We realize we haven’t really thought or prepared ourselves properly. And so, it becomes a sort of disruption or inconvenience, rather than a welcomed form of rest. Maybe that’s not entirely a problem? Unlike a vacation, Easter is a disruption. It’s meant to tear the veil of our routine. It’s meant to shake our melancholy and give rise to meaning. It’s meant to illuminate an everlasting presence, and let us see life and death, and everything in between, in a whole new way.

The truth is, come Easter Sunday, rather than manufacture some false sense of excitement, I should recognise my need for resurrection, in this life and the next.

In 1746, with his 12-versed Resurrection ballad “All Ye That Seek the Lord Who Died,”the great theologian and lyricist Charles Wesley put it this way:

“Haste then, ye souls that first believe,
Who dare the Gospel-Word receive,
Your faith with joyful hearts confess,
Be bold, be Jesus’ witnesses.

Go tell the followers of your Lord
Their Jesus is to life restored;
He lives, that they His life may find;
He lives, to quicken all mankind.”

I love that line, “Who dare the Gospel-Word receive.” Do we dare? Do I dare allow Resurrection Sunday to be a disruption? A necessary inconvenience to my life? Do I dare treat Easter Sunday like the celebration or eternal party that it is?

The party already exists. The only question is: Am I a part of it?

Resurrection Sunday should be the biggest celebration of the year! We should prepare and share the finest food and expect the greatest festivities. The harder part is what comes before the partying. We must not forget that the most anticipated of Superbowl parties, the most memorable of wedding receptions, require a great deal of preparation—maybe even an entire season of getting ready.

Resurrection is the single most climactic event in God’s story.

The Resurrection was what God’s story was building toward all along, and it is the only reason the story continues today. Easter Sunday is the reason we remember and reenact the truth that “He lives, to quicken all mankind.”

In other words, He lives so that we might rise to the fullness of life. Resurrection is the greatest of gifts at the end of a 40-day season of preparation and initiation. Resurrection Sunday is the reason for it all. As the Apostle Paul declared: “Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man” (1 Corinthians 15:20-21).  

So now, let me make another confession: I desire to be rambunctious for the Resurrection. It is my prayer that my excitement for the Superbowl will pale in comparison to my anticipation of Easter Sunday. And so too, I encourage you to do what you must do to make Easter notable and noticeably the most significant and unusual holiday of them all. For it is because of this one day that we gather together every other Sunday.

So share the story, break some bread, prepare a feast. Fill a delicate pastry with some escargot and aged cheddar. Do whatever it is you need to do to make it meaningful, so that “Your faith with joyful hearts you confess. Be bold, be Jesus’ witnesses.”