One bright and beautiful Easter morning a minister shared the worst Children’s Sermon ever. He gathered the children at the front of the sanctuary and very carefully handed each one a big golden Easter egg—the kind that might contain the biggest prize of the annual Easter egg hunt.
The children’s eyes grew wide as the pastor explained that when they opened their eggs, they would find the very best gift of all. He had each of the children close their eyes and all together the whole church counted to three. As the children eagerly opened their golden eggs, they began to groan and sigh. There was nothing in the egg.
That poor minister tried very hard to help the children understand why an empty egg could be the very best gift of all. He reminded the children about how wonderful it was that the tomb was empty on Easter morning. It was the first sign that Jesus, who had died, had been raised to new life by God—of course his body wasn’t lying in a tomb—he was alive and waiting to greet his beloved friend Mary in the garden. But as the children held the two halves of the empty golden eggs in their hands, the disappointment still showing on their faces, it was hard for them to get too excited about the story of Easter.
In recent years I have been reminded how confusing the story of Easter can be for children, and sometimes adults don’t really help. The funny thing is, this story isn’t only confusing for children. This story is confusing for everyone—and if we aren’t confused by it, we aren’t really listening.
Even Mary and the disciples were bewildered that first Easter morning. They had no idea what was going on. In the gospel of John, they spend a lot of time running around feeling sad, confused, and disappointed. The most important person in the whole world, the one who showed them how much God loved them and made their hearts dance with joy, was gone. Only now they were being asked to believe that he wasn’t gone anymore—that he wasn’t even dead anymore, that he was alive.
I tell my kids, and the kids in my church that it is totally okay if they don’t understand the story of Easter. I honestly don’t think any of us do, but I’m not sure understanding it is even the point. We don’t have to understand it to celebrate it, to trust it.
And so, in the next few days, we will move through the hard beauty of Holy Week together, immersing ourselves in ancient practices: washing one another’s feet, dipping bread into wine, extinguishing candles, accompanying Christ through the Stations of the Cross.
And then, at last, the cross—a symbol of violence and death—will be transformed into a symbol of hope and new life. We’ll greet one another with the good news that Christ is Risen, sing hymns at the top of our lungs, and cover every last inch of that ugly cross with lilies and daisies. Every year it’s the same—and every year it is as beautiful as the first day of Creation.
To me, Easter means this: God loves us so much that absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love. Not even death. This story means that even the most broken hearts will be healed, even the saddest stories will be rewritten. The very best gift, indeed.
p.s. Listen to the podcast episode about this post.