Fifty Days of Good News
APRIL 17, 2018
“But Easter’s over!” exclaims the obnoxious media addict, Mike Teavee, observing the geese who lay golden eggs in Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. “They don’t know that!” his long-suffering candy-making host quickly replies.
Here we are, after Easter Sunday, but some of us don’t want to hear that it’s over. Because it’s not. Easter is a fifty-day season that is all about good news. Really good news. Let’s celebrate it, even if the world thinks we’ve misread the calendar.
In recent years, many Evangelicals have begun keeping the season of Lent alongside Catholics, Orthodox, and Anglicans. Where once the idea of giving things up and sticking to rigid cycles of prayer once seemed like dead legalism, it now has a distinctively grace-filled dynamic. Observing Lent is an increasingly refreshing antidote to the stress and busyness of everyday life. Many of us have gotten quite good at Lent, and we’re awfully proud of ourselves! Even thoroughly secular people have found value in a season of intentional self-denial and discipline.
But we can never forget what the season of Lent is for – preparation for Easter. Easter is the beginning, not the end, in the same way that a wedding is the beginning of married life, not the end of an engagement. New Testament scholar and Anglican bishop, N.T. Wright, says in his magnificent book Surprised by Hope:
If Lent is a time to give things up, Easter ought to be a time to take things up. Champagne for breakfast again – well, of course. Christian holiness was never meant to be merely negative. Of course you have to weed the garden from time to time…. That’s Lent for you. But you don’t want simply to turn the garden back into a neat bed of blank earth. Easter is the time to sow new seeds and to plant out a few cuttings.
The thing about observing liturgical seasons and keeping particular practices within them is to live the full scope of life with God. If in Lent we remember that God’s grace is sufficient, in Easter we celebrate that it is abundant, and then some. To stick with our marriage analogy: If engagement is the time to slim down to fit into a dress, the cake-eating and champagne-tipping ought to carry on well beyond the end of the wedding reception. At some point life may get back to normal; but it’s a new and better (if not always easier) normal, a married normal. For Easter people, the season comes to an end, but the new normal buoys us up each year into greater joy and deeper love. We see more clearly how God wins every time.
The Easter season is ten days longer than the Lenten season. In churches that follow traditional liturgical patterns, the color changes from purple or oxblood to white or even gold. The hymns are lively, in major keys, and with every stop pulled out (or the amps turned up to 11). In churches that use the Revised Common Lectionary, we hear from the Book of Acts every year during the Easter season. We focus on the rag-tag bunch who quickly learned to live as a Resurrection people before even the most essential Christian doctrines developed. Jesus’s first followers staked their whole existence on a fact that wasn’t meant to be celebrated just one day on the calendar: Christ died and rose again. Death died. Life reigns. If Christians today don’t know how to celebrate that same reality for at least 50 days out of 365, then what are we living for?
If you kept a holy Lent this year, bravo! Now raise a glass and shout for joy that we are in the midst of fifty days of good news. If “Easter’s over” for some, let them think we live in ignorance or have lost our marbles as we continue to proclaim the good news: Alelluia! Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed! Alelluia!
Read more from Andrew Petiprin here.