04/14/19 – The colored eggs nested in clever hiding spots await the giggling, squealing children as dawn rises on Easter Sunday. Under couch cushions, out in the yard beneath a few crinkled leaves near the oak or black walnut, behind the cedar bushes, atop fence posts – and many lost ‘til spring cleaning and outdoor clean up begins. Jelly beans, hollow chocolate bunnies, Cadbury chocolate/caramel delights, yellow marshmallow chicks, perhaps a toy or two or ten – sans the decorated Frasier fir replaced with a plastic grass filled, long handled wicker basket of some sort, Christmas comes again in April and the “Santa Claus” sneaky rabbit slinks through the night to provide delight for all ages. Where in the world of faith did all this originate?
A little google-eyed research leads me to some theories. One internet source poses a connection to an Eighth Century Germanic Goddess “Eostre” (pronounced “Easter”). Supposedly, she was celebrated around the time of Passover every year. But, no connection to melting masses of chocolate or rabbit round-about. Or any actual evidence that such a goddess ever existed. No known worshippers, no shrines or altars, no ancient documents mentioning her. And the connection to the story of Christ…huh?
Another explanation emerges regarding a Mesopotamian goddess of war, fertility, and – really?? – sex. Ishtar (again pronounced “Easter”) and the Ishtar Gate was part of Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon and worship included a whole bunch of non-Good Friday/Easter Sunday stuff, including temple prostitution. Assyrian history also includes worship of her and symbols associated with the goddess include bunnies and eggs – still considered fertility and sex symbols (I am not sure of the connection with resurrection??). Constantine in Christianizing the Empire, changed Easter (Ishtar) to represent Jesus, but the change still had zero to do with Christian belief. So still nowhere and searching, I come across the idea that “Easter” derives from the Latin phrase “in albis”, related to “alba” (“dawn” or “daybreak” in Spanish and Italian). In Old High German, “in albis” became “eostarum,” which eventually became “Ostern” in Modern German and “Easter” in English. The French word for Easter is “Pâcques,” based on the Latin and Greek “Pascha,” meaning “Passover.”
Yea, well – all this seeking seems to come down to, “What Easter means to me/us.” Easter itself is the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and victory over sin, death, and the power of the devil. This holds the critical doctrine of my faith, the soul of my belief, the heart of my assurance, the map of my life journey. My confirmation verse quoted by a loving Pastor was John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Somehow, the pastor knew that, for me, this verse had to be in the light of my days and in the dark of my nights. Realization came over 50 years later, in tribulation and self-condemnation, and in a “walk with Christ” at a church in Stoughton, WI.
In all the modern day efforts to rebuild congregations, restore God to our culture, and get people into the pews, in all the neon efforts that change worship styles, change music, repaint and update the walls and halls, put our societal situations in Bible perspective – if John 3:16 does not boldly come forth then all that work melts, gets lost ‘til the next clean-up, and likely dies in a walled building that forgot “faith has no boundaries – God is good, all the time; all the time, God is good.” A true church, a true congregation of faith, hope, love, and assurance, must first and foremost be about Christ’s birth, life, death, descent, resurrection, and ascension, not a whatever the majority wants, hoppity-hop, have the candy for a while surge that lacks the one true foundation, not a long-handled wicker wonder of hollow hope and plastic green. submitted by Dave Smith