Thursday, December 3rd Mark 16:1-8

When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. Mark 16:1-8

As we move further into December, it will be increasingly difficult to remember that the holiest day of the Christian year is Easter rather than Christmas. Christmas captures our imaginations but Easter gave birth to the faith.

It is the Easter story, Jesus walking out of an empty tomb, swallowing up death, that is the vindication and the inspiration of the Christian faith. We celebrate that event every week throughout the year as the church gathers on the morning of the first day of the week.

I don’t know if “interesting” is the right word but it is interesting to see how differently the wider culture reacts to these two holy days. Brightly decorated shopping malls will play Christmas carols through their sound systems from the day after Thanksgiving on. But it is highly doubtful that we will hear “Christ the Lord is Ris’n Today” playing in Macy’s. Why is it that Christmas seems a relatively “safe” day while Easter seems a “threat”?

Maybe there is a certain “been there-done that” to the birth of a child. Just as God intended, the birth of Jesus helps Jesus identify with all of us. We’ve been born. We’ve had children. But Easter brings us face to face with the reality at the other end of our lives. Easter, coming on the heels of a season of repentance, is both judgment and grace in our lives. Judgment for the same sins of pride, greed and fear that rejected Jesus and grace in God’s refusal to let us die helplessly in our sin. That very judgment, and the promise of such grace, is an invitation to reorient our lives. To literally follow Jesus rather than just remember him.

The color for Easter is white, the theme is the resurrection. It is followed by the Easter season, 50 days of celebration. The color remains white. The Paschal candle (baptismal candle, processional candle…the big candle by the baptismal font) remains lit all season. The first reading is from the book of Acts rather than the Old Testament. And then, after 50 days, comes Pentecost Sunday, the traditional “birthday of the church” with the reading from Acts 2 and the church dressed in red.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, we are walking today through Advent, through the anxiety and weight of the Christmas story as we have come to live in it. Keep us mindful of the bigger picture, of the etneral purposes not only of your birth but also of your death and victory over death. Hope seems to be leaking away out of the lives of so many, fill us anew with the power of our faith in you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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