Growing up in the orthodox church of Christ was really weird sometimes. We didn’t celebrate Easter because we were supposed to celebrate the resurrection EVERY Sunday, if not every day. So, no special service, no sunrise assemblies, and worst of all, I didn’t get any candy*. The hymnal we used was chock full of songs celebrating the resurrection, but the chance of hearing one of those songs on the Sunday celebrated as Easter was equal to the chance of Gladys Knight and the Pips serving communion. No, no..no easter-type songs on Easter. We didn’t want to be caught celebrating with those OTHER churches that didn’t know any better.
Christmas was pretty much the same. One wasn’t supposed to celebrate the BIRTH of Jesus, and anyway, we didn’t know when He was born, and besides, we all knew that Christmas was a rip-off of a freakin’ PAGAN holiday. So, any song in December celebrating the actual birth of Jesus was as verboten as a stripper in Sunday school. Silent Night in mid-summer was downright odd, but that’s pretty much the only time we got to sing that normally-noel-ish chestnut. But, Christmas actually worked out well for me. I attended the most boring church in the known universe**. We bought into the presents and the feast bit, just as long as it had nothing to do with Jesus. Keep Christ OUT of Christmas was our somewhat ironic motto.
So, doing the math here: presents, candy, great meal, Christmas tree, decorations – CHECK. Not having to go to the most boring church in the world for special Christmas service: CHECK. I was all about loving Christmas…the math worked superbly in my favor.
But, back to Easter. Like I said, no special service, no pageantry, and worst of all, no chocolate. The Easter Bunny and his accouterments were all a silly myth explained away by my truth-telling-to-a-fault parents. I didn’t mind not getting some dumb Easter outfit, but speaking for my sister…she got ripped in that department.
We did hear a lot about resurrection, and we often sang an Easter-type hymn in the late summer/early fall. The name of the hymn was: ‘Up From the Grave He Arose”. As a kid, along with 10,000 others, I mis-heard the lyrics and wondered why we were singing about gravy. When I realized the error of my ways, I continued to sing the word ‘gravy’ hoping to convulse my pew-mate peers. The song always made me picture Jesus in some kind of superhero suit, blasting out of the ground, fist and arm point heavenward, zooming off to save the world, especially when it came to the line: ‘he arose a victor from the dark domain’, which sounds like he blew up some satanic fortress before he blasted through the gravy-like magma, ever skyward.
Today at East End United Methodist, we sang that hymn. I thought about gravy and I thought about my friends and how we giggled over our own special somewhat irreverent lyrics. I thought about getting up at 5:00 AM to hide easter eggs for my kids, waiting for the sun and children to arise and how the dew glistened. I remembered the special hiding places and the kids rushing out the door with their baskets laughing at how easy some of the eggs were to spot. My heart nearly stops when I think about the almost unbearable unconditional love I have for those kids, now grown. It’s at those moments I glimpse eternity. Easter finally makes sense to me.
*speaking of rip-offs. When our kids came along, SUDDENLY my mom is into celebrating Easter with Easter baskets chock-chock-chocolate full and brimmed by jelly beans. In the interest of preventing my kids from succoming to a sugar-induced coma, I imposed a chocolate tax somewhat akin to the capital gains rate. I figured I had it coming.
**the average age of the members of the most boring church in the universe was upward of 70. My dad once quipped that if Social Security were eliminated our church would pretty much go under. If they had had those Super Bowl parties with giant screen TVs back then, our church would show Madlock marathons instead of the Super Bowl, interspersed with the local forecast on the ‘8s’ from the Weather Channel, that is assuming that a TV would have been allowed on the premises back then. Probably a TV would have had the same chance as a piano or pipe organ. n’uh uh….