Easter is my favorite holiday, and I say that meaning it in the sense of it's etymological meaning: Holy Day. I definitely really enjoy Thanksgiving, as well- it's in the fall and it's got everything I love about Christmas without the stress (well, except for gifts). But Easter has become such a wonderful day for me and that's attributable mainly to 2 factors: the ever increasing knowledge I have of my own need for Jesus and the cross, and my growing participation in the Lenten season and Passion Week.
Lent and Holy Week are basically tailgating for Easter. You meet a lot with others who are gearing up for the same event to discuss it and eat good food, you abstain from doing some things (wearing the other team's color) and take up other things (wearing your own team's colors) to help keep your mind focused on what you're preparing for, and you think about your personal upcoming participation in this corporate worship service. I've done Lent on and off since I was a kid, but it's only been in the last couple of years that I've attempted to use the season to give up something so as to focus on Christ. And it wasn't until college that I started going to any Holy Week services. But I've found both so rich and meaningful in my Easter preparations that now I can't imagine this season without them.
Starting with Palm Sunday (today), we meditate on the last week of Jesus' time on earth. Examining what He did, said, and focused on is definitely fascinating, but what I've been thinking most about this year is in what ways I am the crowd that welcomed Him with wild regales as my King one day, and mere days later reject Him and try to kill Him from my life. Last year I plumbed much deeper into the Gethsemane prayer than I'd ever been able to understand before. It's so easy to tick off the story as rote memorization. But spending 40 days gearing up for this time has allowed me to dive a little deeper underneath the surface to start examining what Christ's death and resurrection really mean to me and my life, here and now. Some call it preaching the gospel to yourself daily- Lent facilitates this for me in a much more meaningful way than I normally can achieve throughout the rest of the year.
I love also the ebb and flow of the cadence of this time on the liturgical calendar- I love that I am walking through the story as it happens and experiencing the emotions as much as I can. Easter isn't really that joyful if you go in there thinking, "Well, duh. He rises. Haven't you read the end of this story?" But if you are experiencing the agony of the garden, Pete's helplessness as he denies, Judas' despair that results in suicide, the ethos of Mary watching her Son die, and mostly, the grief of watching your Savior suffer the extremes of physical and spiritual pain, when you wake up Easter and realize it's time to rejoice in His resurrection, it puts you in a much more celebratory mood! As a sidenote, that's one of the great tragedies of modern Christianity- we're so afraid to talk about/define sin, that we're castrating the breathtaking hope, joy, and grace that comes with the news that we don't have to live like this. Good news and salvation only mean something to people who understand what it means to live in bad news and bondage.
And more than anything, Easter is the one major church event that has kept it's focus on la raison d'etre: Jesus. The bunnies and bonnets have not tarnished the spotlight on Him the way Santa and retail therapy have on Christmas. This is the one day a year that remains unapologetically about Jesus and what He has done for me and you. And as corny as it is, I really love Him. I really love this Guy and I'm so excited to spend a week purposefully focusing on Him and the lengths He has gone to to be in relationship with me.
But anyways, I'm so pumped about this week. I've figured out that I will be taking communion 6 times in 7 days, kneeling for several hours, singing a lot, and reading a lot of Scripture. I can't wait! And for those of you who have never tried out this whole "tradition" thing in church, I'd challenge you to try it. Tradition should never be an end unto itself, but there's a reason people have being saying these prayers and having these services for hundreds of years.
Happy Holy Week!