Have you ever been asked what is your favorite holiday or time of year? While the season of the year chosen vary greatly, many, many would say that Christmas is their favorite holiday. After all, who doesn’t love the decorations and lights, smiling and excited children, trees, presents, Santa Claus, parties galore. It’s a fun-filled time of year. And from a Christian perspective, who doesn’t get a warm fuzzy over the birth of a baby…especially the baby Jesus? Yet as much as I love Advent and Christmas, they are not my favorite.
When Andy and I first got married, 4th of July was his favorite. It was during the summer and a family time with fireworks, bar-be-que with all the trimmings and I contributed peach cobbler to the tradition. We still try to keep 4th of July traditions going and this last year Naomi and Anna made the cobbler. Although the food is a bit of work, it is a far more relaxed holiday in our house than Christmas with all of the decorating, shopping, church events, and finally collapse on Christmas Day. Yet as much as I love 4th of July, it’s not my favorite either.
For some people, Thanksgiving is a favorite. Oh my, the food, oh my! Turkey, my mom’s dressing and corn casserole, cranberry sauce, fruit salad, the green varies by who’s at the table each year…it’s a day of trying to get everyone’s favorite on the table. Don’t forget the pies…pumpkin and pecan are standard at my house. And turkey soup, among other things, made with leftovers. Before you lecture me on the meaning of Thanksgiving, I know, I know. But it’s really about the food for me. Yet as much as I love Thanksgiving, it’s also not my favorite.
You know where I’m going with this. After all, we are in Lent and fast approaching Easter. For me, Lent is a time for reflection and self-examination. It is a time for being truthful with myself and with God about who I am and what I have done or left undone. It’s a time for dropping all pretense about who we are and what drives us. It’s a time for stretching and not always comfortable. Yet I love Lent because of how it prepares me for Easter. Without it, Easter would be about bunnies, baskets filled with candy, egg hunts, and flower covered crosses. For me, Lent saves Easter, makes Easter about resurrection and new life.
Ten years ago, my father died on Palm Sunday. His memorial service was on Good Friday and he celebrated his first Easter in the fullness of new life. Some might wonder if his loss might make Lent, Holy Week, and Easter painful and my least favorite holiday. Yet loss and grief made it all more poignant and more meaningful to me. I celebrate out of a place in my soul that no other holiday can reach. I see and experience the events of these days in a different light.
On Palm Sunday, I always remember that day 10 years ago while I remember that Jesus knows the journey on which he embarks. On Maundy Thursday, I remember the sermon I preached 10 years ago of Jesus being on hospice but he was the only one who knew it. On Good Friday, I remember my dad’s service and the Good Friday Tenebrae service where I was a reader…embraced by a church that allowed me to read while having a backup in case I couldn’t speak. And on Easter morning, I celebrate resurrection…oh eternal life…oh grace of God given to all. So you see, Easter cannot be Easter without Holy Week.
I’m sure you have guessed. Lent, Holy Week, and Easter are my favorite. I hope you will walk through these days with me as we walk together with our Lord. Let’s not miss a single moment. As a culture we often try to avoid pain at all costs. Yet without pain we cannot know complete joy. Jesus wants our joy to be complete. So stay the course with me: in outreach to our community with an Egg Hunt on April 20th (rescheduled for weather), Palm Sunday worship, Maundy Thursday led by our youth, Good Friday Tenebrae (I love reading this service!), In the Tomb Prayer Chain, and of course, Easter morning when we rejoice in “Christ the Lord is risen today!”