The long weekend is almost upon us, offering time to catch our breath and reflect on where we’ve come from and where we’re heading. We all have hopes for the future – whether private or public, small or large. What are your hopes for 2010? What are your hopes for the future? What gives you a reason to get up in the morning? What is it that most powerfully shapes your destiny?
Writing almost 2000 years ago, Peter the Apostle spoke of a specifically Christian hope that he and his friends possessed. It was something that drove them to overcome the huge challenges they faced, and filled their lives with joy. And it was an emotion drawn from an experience based on facts that could be caught and taught.
Peter said, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15). The hope he was talking about is the Easter hope: the celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Easter means many things to many people. For secular Australia, it means the longest of long weekends, the ritual exchange of chocolates of various shapes and sizes, perhaps a family get-together, or a bit of cricket, or a barbecue. For Jewish people, there are the ancient traditions of Passover, celebrating ethnic origins and religious identity. For Christians, the Easter weekend is recognised as the most holy time of the year, if one weekend can be said to be more holy than others.
In the days leading up to Easter, Christians prepare through prayer and reflection, and perhaps fasting, to hear the story of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, and to enter into the story once more. On Good Friday, we remember the innocent suffering and selfless giving of Jesus, whom we acknowledge as Lord and God. And on Easter Day, Sunday, we celebrate his resurrection from the dead, his triumph over evil, and his authority to make all things right and all things new. That’s the miracle of Easter.
And in these great gospel events, in this beautiful story of Jesus, we each have a place. We are part of the ongoing story of the love of God, and we experience profound hope and peace, and we discover a new purpose for living.
It’s a story we never grow tired of telling, and never grow weary of celebrating. It has become the central and defining narrative of Western civilization, despite the best efforts of atheists and others to replace it with stories or schemes of their own creation.
At its heart, Easter is a story about our deepest needs, and God’s great love, and the new hope we discover when we experience the reality of Jesus Christ in our lives. As biblical scholar N.T. Wright puts it, “The message of Easter is that God’s new world has been unveiled in Jesus Christ and that you’re now invited to belong to it.”
What are your hopes? Whose world are you living in? What will you celebrate this weekend?