Celebrating Easter early seems to be rushing it

Published 10:20 am Friday, March 22, 2013

By the Rev. Katie Fick
Hayward and Trondhjem Lutheran Churches

My mother called me a few weeks ago, trying to plan a family Easter celebration. “What do you think about getting together the weekend before and celebrating Easter?”

Something inside of me instinctively recoiled. Celebrate Easter before Easter? Celebrate Easter before Palm/Passion Sunday, before Maundy Thursday, before Good Friday? This did not seem possible in my head. I replied, “What do you mean by celebrate Easter?”

She explained that we would all get together as a family, eat a meal together (traditionally ham, but I’m not sure how traditional we will be this year) and do an Easter egg hunt, for adults, that my 9-year-old niece would plan.

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Who could resist? “Sure,” I said, still feeling uneasy. “We can do that.”

What is it about celebrating Easter before the official Easter Sunday that has me so uneasy? We move around Christmas celebrations in my family all the time. Since I am a pastor, we rarely get together with a lot of family on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, so family Christmases are some other weekend in December, or even January. And by “family Christmas” we usually don’t mean celebrating the birth of Jesus, but getting together, eating holiday foods together and opening Christmas presents. I have never had a problem with that.

But moving Easter struck me differently. This surprises me a little, considering that we have long been told as pastors, to pass on to our parishioners, that “Every Sunday is Easter Sunday.” We celebrate the resurrection of Jesus every week — this is why Sundays do not count in the 40 days of Lent. Even with this programmed into my brain I still felt somehow that celebrating Easter early was like having a wedding reception before you got married.

I think this is because there is something particularly holy about Holy Week to me. The story of Jesus, from his arrival in Jerusalem in triumph to his last supper with his disciples to the pain and suffering of his crucifixion and death to the amazement of the women when they go to anoint the body of Jesus and find the empty tomb — there is a flow and progression to the story, to the week, that is deeply moving and mysterious. To rush to the empty tomb without the rest of the story would leave a feeling of hollow joy. To truly celebrate Easter and then jump back to the crucifixion a few days later would feel like whiplash.

And so for me, it will be when our church calendar declares it to be Easter morning, when I stand, proclaiming the gospel of Luke and the story of Jesus’ resurrection, smelling the lilies and singing “Jesus Christ Is Risen Today” — that will be Easter for me. I will have moved through Holy Week, aching with hope for that resurrection promise. Then I will be renewed for celebrating every Sunday as Easter Sunday for the next year.

Spending time with my family, eating good food, hunting for eggs? I can’t wait to do it! That will just be a fun way to spend a Saturday.