Today is Monday, the first day after Resurrection Sunday.
And my Facebook wall is flooded with photos taken by friends at their Easter egg hunts this past weekend. And they're all churched friends. None of my non-churched friends have posted Easter egg pictures.
Now, by way of full disclosure: I've never particularly cared for eggs as a foodstuff. I'm not crazy about their taste, odor, or texture, hard-boiled or otherwise. I realize that most of my favorite dishes rely on the excellent properties eggs add to the best recipes, but then again, the best recipes don't end up tasting like, well... eggs.
So maybe I'm predisposed to thinking about eggs in a negative light. Which would help explain why I struggle with people of faith spending so much energy on Easter eggs. While I was growing up, my parents would get my brother and me the traditional - well, traditional for the 1970's - plastic Easter baskets with the requisite plastic colored straw, and chocolate eggs and bunnies with little candied eyes and noses. And that was pretty much the extent of our Easter tomfoolery. Plus the new clothes for Easter Sunday, but that's another topic for another blog essay.
Suffice it to say that although I enjoyed wearing new clothes along with everybody else at church on Easter Sunday when I was a kid, I've since learned how totally unrelated new clothes are to a heartfelt celebration of the resurrection of our Lord and Savior. A sentiment that correlates even more strongly, despite the deep piousness with which this sounds, with my reservations about Easter eggs. I can't avoid my suspicions that, even worse than the pretentiousness of new clothes, Easter eggs pose a genuine risk of distracting our attentions and affections from the true purpose of Easter.
Sure, I understand that as far as we know, the tradition of Easter eggs has an extensive history in Christendom, but it was started by Roman Catholics, the group that also gave us our modern Halloween, a truly Wiccan holiday. Actually, before Catholics adopted the egg for its Easter observances, ancient Zoroastrians were believed to have used eggs five hundred years before the birth of Christ in their celebration of the Spring equinox, called Nowrooz. And to be fair, most non-Christian cultures around the globe have celebrated the egg in various fashions for millennia with and without religious connotations.
Even though I don't personally care for them as a food, I can understand society's fascination with them: eggs are perhaps one of the best-engineered containers God ever designed. From their deceptively complex shape to the compressive strength of their shells, eggs both protect the potential for life inside of them, yet can easily yield their rich internal nutrients to provide a healthy sustenance to a variety of life forms in a variety of ways.
But the story of Easter is far more profound than the intrigues of the egg. And what is it about human tradition that makes hunting Easter eggs on Resurrection Sunday that much more worthwhile than, say, traditional church worship styles - you know, that fossilized music and liturgy that contemporary believers consider irrelevant to modern culture?
If the tradition of Easter eggs is so good, what makes traditional church so bad?
All the more proof that contemporary worship is more whim than substance, in my opinion; but then, just as I get into trouble for pointing that out, I get into trouble for complaining that churches dwell too much on things like Easter eggs.
We evangelicals are proud of claiming that we don't believe in a "religion," we believe in a 'Person." But then we go about cluttering our faith in a Person with goofy, trite trinkets from religion and church history. At least Easter eggs can't be claimed as an integral component of a current religion's catechism like Halloween can, but they're not any more necessary to faith in Christ than costumes, goblins, and trick-or-treating, are they?
And if you think this is tiring, just don't get me started on the Easter bunny! Which is, of course, the next tangent into which conversations on such topics as Easter eggs inevitably degenerate: Easter bunnies and the weird fascination of rabbits in general held by not only early Christians, but also early Jews, and followers of other early religions around the world. Centuries ago, female rabbits were believed to have the capacity of bearing offspring without first having sex, which made them symbols of the virgin Mary. Which also means that as religious symbols, they're about as legitimate as Santa Claus.
So why mess around with all of this ancillary stuff? Because they're cute and we think they're harmless? Because we're adults and we know what we're doing when it comes to pagan religious symbols? Because they're a good excuse for quality family time with the kiddos?
No, I can't say Easter eggs are sinful in and of themselves, especially since many evangelicals who incorporate them into their Resurrection Day festivities don't ascribe much religious significance to them. Nor can I even remotely suggest that families who host Easter egg hunts risk indoctrinating their children with pagan belief systems. I've simply never been offered a valid reason for why we need to sugarcoat the splendid truth of Christ's resurrection with frivolities and carnal pursuits - all in the name of "fun."
Having fun is a weak justification to do anything. And no, having fun isn't a sin, either. But considering what Easter represents, when you have fun on Resurrection Sunday, why can't it be more meaningful? More substantive? More doctrinally-valid? More enmeshed with the purpose of the day?
Easter is victory.
The defeat of sin, and the supremacy of Christ. The defeat of both sin and death, y'all! If you're gonna get jiggy with anything, 'dis be IT!
Easter is salvation, a gift we'll never be able to repay. The guarantee of eternal life in Heaven with God.
It's His glory manifested in the redemption of His people.
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!
Sure: celebrate, and have fun! Enjoy the victory Christ won on our behalf. You won't go to hell just because you incorporate Easter eggs into your fun celebrations of Christ's victory over death. But are Easter eggs the best you can do? Am I the only person who thinks Easter eggs are incredibly corny in the face of such a historic achievement on behalf of us mere mortals? Talk about wallowing in mediocrity, right? Christ gives us salvation; we give Him Easter eggs in appreciation.
Are Easter eggs yet more proof that even on a holiday like Resurrection Sunday, it's still all about us?
I understand that many people like infusing major observances with some sort of tangible festivity. And maybe, since we can't repay God for His salvation of our souls, something as pagan as Easter eggs could be considered better than no celebrating at all.
Maybe, since God looks at the heart, He sees what otherwise would be a farcical pagan tradition as a family-building exercise in the form of an Easter egg hunt. Maybe He sees parents trying to do something to mark the day in their kids' memories, and out of His abundant grace, He lathers coats of it over what would otherwise be a hollow man-made custom. As hollow as most of the chocolate bunnies these kids will receive.
As hollow and empty, in fact, as the grave from which Christ arose. The "big empty."
Maybe the story of Resurrection Sunday is that the same grace which saves us from our sins is the same grace that tolerates such meager ways of celebrating salvation as eggs and bunnies.
Justifying Easter eggs. That's the real hunt, isn't it?