If I were to greet you tomorrow with, “Alleluia! Christ is risen!” would you think I was a day late and a dollar short? The baskets, fake grass, perfectly proportioned Reese’s peanut butter eggs and bunny wreaths probably departed your home days ago. But for our spiritual forefathers, Easter Sunday was just the beginning of a seven-week celebration of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. This season, Eastertide begins at sundown on Easter Sunday and ends 50 days later on the Sunday of Pentecost (a celebration of the the Holy Spirit’s descent on the disciples).
My interest in the liturgical calendar began a few years ago. My birthday (January 6) falls on Epiphany, so my initial curiosity was more about the Advent/Christmas/Epiphany seasons. The more I learned, the more I appreciated the rhythms of the calendar. It became a tool to help prepare my heart throughout the year for significant events of the Christian faith.
Our modern-day religious calendar tends to focus on the anticipation leading up to the “big days” more than the celebration and reflection after them. For example, we spend weeks before Christmas observing Advent and anticipating the birth of Christ, but we limit the celebration of Jesus’ birth to one day. Epiphany is a time set aside to celebrate and hail the incarnate deity — that the word became flesh and dwelt among us.
And at Easter, we spend 40 days before Easter (Lent) reflecting on Jesus’ sacrifice and our need for the atoning work of the cross, but we limit the celebration of the empty tomb to one day. Hear me clearly: I am pro-advent, pro-lenten, pro-Christmas and pro-Easter. I am so pro these things that I advocate we create space in our busy lives to spend even more time celebrating and reflecting in the weeks after the holiday.
Our modern-day religious calendar tends to focus on the anticipation leading up to the “big days” more than the celebration and reflection after them.
I grew up in a non-liturgical church environment. No one ever told me about Epiphanytide or Eastertide. Perhaps the same is true for you. If so, I have a few suggestions for how we can intentionally continue reflecting on the empty tomb, the bodily resurrection and Jesus’ ascension to heaven in the weeks to come. Of course these invitations are available to you year-round, but they can certainly help you refocus the entire Easter season, ending on June 9.
1. Praise God for the empty tomb.
The Book of Common Prayer allows the Christian to go on a beautiful journey during the seven Sundays of the Easter season. Read some of these adaptations from the contemporary prayers:
- Because of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, we can “celebrate with joy” and have power to defeat sin as Christ reigns in our hearts.
- God has established a “new covenant of reconciliation” so that our lives can demonstrate what our faith professes. God opens our eyes to see his redeeming work.
- He is our good shepherd who “calls us each by name,” and we answer him.
- God exceeds our expectations. God did not leave us without a helper, but he sent us the Holy Spirit.
What encouraging reminders that are worth us continuing to celebrate!
Thank God for his plan to reconcile a people to himself and for opening your eyes to his plan. Rejoice in the blessings that he has given you.
2. Read about the characteristics of God with a spotlight on the joy and hope we have in Christ.
As you read the Bible, meditate on the four gospels — specifically the time between the resurrection and the ascension. How is each gospel unique in their account? What does each author focus on during this short time? Where are there similarities?
Choose books that focus on the character of God and our hope in him. Knowing God by J.I. Packer, The Knowledge of the Holy by R.C. Sproul and None Like Him by Jen Wilkin are three good places to start.
3. Continue to listen to Easter music.
So many Easter worship songs and hymns deserve to be heard more than one Sunday each year. Create a resurrection celebration playlist and then make a joyful noise. Try singing Up from the Grave He Arose or Glorious Day on your way to work without walking into the office with a little extra pep in your step.
4. Write down a list of the ways God has blessed you.
I don’t think this one needs much explanation. We are God’s children, and everything good we have is because of his grace in our lives. The list can span from tangible to intangible, past to future, small to big. How has God blessed you? Name them one by one and celebrate.
5. Choose to do things that bring you joy.
Jesus came for us to have abundant life, not only in eternity, but now. Watch a sunrise over the ocean, hike to a waterfall or tie your hammock up between two trees and take a nap. Cook a gourmet meal together with your family or friends. Read a book. Stay in your pajamas all day. What brings you joy? Allow yourself to have a glimpse of the abundance. God loves to give good gifts to his children. Pay attention and create space for a few gifts.
6. Take time to see the new life around you.
Spring is a glorious time of the year to remind us that God makes all things new. Enjoy the journey of watching the death of winter fall off of creation. Rejoice as new life sprouts up at every corner. Plant some flowers or buy some fresh cut flowers if your thumb isn’t green. Let springtime be a physical representation to you of God’s faithfulness. His plans cannot be thwarted.
Let’s set our minds on the things above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God (Colossians 3:1). Let’s intentionally extend our Easter celebration this year. Alleluia! Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed!