As winter finally shows some signs of releasing its grip on the Northern Hemisphere, we welcome the return of the color green into our world.
I certainly enjoy the colors of fall, and cocooning during the winter months can be very pleasant assuming you have everything you need on hand.
But spring is unquestionably upbeat: temperatures rise and we are less encumbered by layers of clothes and the bulkiness of outerwear that restricts one’s movements in more ways than one.
And then there are the holidays…
Depending on the traditions of faith in which you were raised, these would be either Easter (betting with the odds here) or Passover (the longshot, statistically speaking…)
But regardless of the holiday, each reflects the overarching themes that Nature displays at this time of year.
We’ve survived the winter months, the less-than-hospitable weather, and the discomfort that sometimes reaches the limits of human endurance. It’s rather like a journey through a lean period, a dry season, as some express it. We emerge at the far end grateful that the experience is behind us and rejuvenated by the verdant promise of revitalized fertility and simple freedom to relax and enjoy our world.
Surely the story of the Hebrews’ Exodus from Egypt and their eventual arrival in The Promised Land has some parallels here.
And as for Easter, the events surrounding the Crucifixion are capped by the Resurrection and Assumption, and the ministry of Jesus culminates in His return to the Heavenly Father and his journey through this world reaches – if only temporarily – its end.
In America, one may be forgiven some skepticism as Capitalism raises its ugly head: Easter Baskets, rabbits, chocolate candies, and greeting cards. The last two can even be kosher for Passover.
I share the thoughts of the late stand-up comedian Sam Kinison, who himself was a former charismatic minister: why all the rabbits? Jesus never had a rabbit! There’s nothing in the gospel about hunting for eggs, either.
I remember an Easter several years ago now, when our daughter was seven or eight years old. Please permit me to set the scene.
A local evangelical church invited the general public to an “Easter Egg Drop.”
I had never witnessed this before. It was memorable.
A large field was cordoned off and everybody assembled at the appointed time and place at the field’s edge. Soon, the sound of an approaching helicopter alerted everybody to the imminent arrival of the season’s most famous rodent.
And there, up in the sky, like some sort of bizarre marriage between the branch of Jesse and the NSA’s most covert black ops endeavor, you could just make out the silhouette of a man dressed up like an oversized rabbit leaning out of the side of a helicopter. He was leaning out so far one feared for his safety until one made out the belt that kept him tethered to the interior of the aircraft. But what was he doing?
The helicopter made several passes over the cordoned off field, each one lower than the last, until the helicopter was tearing across the field at just above tree level. And with every pass, the children grew more agitated and difficult to control. A number of youngsters were straining at the barriers that kept them off the meadow. A few of the parents were, too…
Leaning back, if only for a moment during the lowest pass, the rabbit figure produced what looked for all the world like an oversized mail bag and overturned it.
Plastic Easter eggs began to rain from the sky.
At the sight of this pastel precipitation, the children began to shout and exclaim. Even some of the parents were showing signs of weakening self-control.
After three or four passes, the meadow was now littered with egg droppings and any pretense of self-control around its boundaries was dissolving fast. The event organizers did a hasty countdown and the barrier ropes were dropped.
Jesus, the bible tells us, taught that he was not merely the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy but the embodiment of the new Commandment to love one’s neighbor as oneself. I’m sure He gave the matter a lot of thought, but I don’t believe He ever witnessed a phenomenon quite like this.
Were he a man of any less character, it might be enough to persuade him to climb back up onto the cross.
More than a few commentators have noted how the contemporary American culture often parts company with the original philosophy behind many religious holidays.
“Christmas is not about consumerism,” they cry. “Easter is not about marshmallow peeps and chocolate bunnies!”
What transpired across an otherwise innocent meadow was now quickly taking on the aspects of a cross between the Bacchanalia and the opening moments of the Louisiana Purchase.
There were children everywhere, grabbing while the grabbing was good, in some cases, aided and abetted by their parents who obviously envied the abandon with which their offspring enjoyed this newly invented and distorted rite of spring.
We have never been to another Easter egg drop.
Like I said, it was memorable.
A couple of years later, we started a new tradition at our house: the springtime Colonoscopy. We “observe” it every 5-10 years or so, lest the novelty of the thrill becomes lost in the annual repetition.
After all, if you’re really going to clean house, you have to start somewhere.
It’s all about beginnings and endings.
It’s especially about the endings and, of course, the journey in between.