Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Merry ... Easter?


 Okay, raise your hands if you prefer Christmas to Easter when it comes to choosing your favorite holiday? Right. I’m betting quite a few of us may have well raised our hands in favor of Christmas. Because … well, that’s what the next bit of creative license is about. Read on, if you dare.
Let’s imagine, if you will, that Jesus has agreed to take a meeting with an ad/marketing type guy regarding the popular appeal, or rather lack of such, when it comes to Easter as a holiday.
( For the sake of brevity the Ad Guy will be referred to as AG and Jesus as “J”)

 (We join the two already well under way with their “meeting”)

AG: Let’s face it Jesus, your people have not done a very good job on promoting Easter. Compared to Christmas, it’s a wash. I mean look at the differences –
Christmas – you got your Santa Claus, your Christmas songs, your red and green displays, your children all wide-eyed and expectant – and let me add here you can never go wrong when you bring kids into the picture. People just respond well to “kid appeal”, they just do.
   Now take Easter – you’ve got several days when you’re supposed to give up stuff and if that’s not enough of a downer you’re giving it up to remember how much a certain someone had to give up – no offense – and well, that’s just not appealing, what can I say. Sure you’ve got the cuddly Easter bunny, but that’s pretty weak when compared to Santa Claus, his reindeer and a sleigh full of toys for the little ones. You gotta admit between Santa and Peter Cottontail, Santa wins hands down.
  And … I mean no disrespect, but I think your people need to tone down the blood and beatings and ridicule. Mention it, but keep it short and get on to the good part.
   Let me give you a better idea of what I’m thinking here (goes to the chart at the front of the room). Okay, here you’ve got the number of people who always celebrate Christmas, whether they believe in you or not – what’s not to like about Christmas. I’m betting even some die hard atheists have fun during that holiday. (Flips the chart – we’re in a pre-digital universe here) Now look at this – A much smaller of percentage of folks who actually celebrate Easter. It doesn’t even come anywhere close to the other numbers. So I’m suggesting …
(Jesus stands up and walks over to AG, puts His hand on his shoulder, looks him in the eye, smiles and says …)
J: Using your vernacular – You just don’t get it, do you. First off, did you realize that holiday is short for “Holy day?” Did you further realize that when something is holy it’s set apart, different, not something you can buy or sell or even readily understand?
   The business of making a holy day a holiday is not something me or my Father came up with. You did. Knowing how you guys operate we weren’t surprised. Even when you brought the Easter bunny into the picture we didn’t stomp our feet and rain down fire and brimstone because of it. I’ll admit I was disappointed but then again if you recall I’ve seen all of you at your very worst. Now think about that for a moment.
   I’ve seen all of you at your very worst, not your best, your very worst. But I didn’t let that keep me from going through what I went through. I was willing to go to the cross and die to demonstrate how very much I loved all of you – the best, the worst, the believers, the non-believers. To take on the absolute ultimate weight of pure evil and shame and hang there until it was over.
  Popularity? I’m not after popularity. I’ve had that – true it was brief, it was false and in the long run it didn’t matter too much when it came time for me to be crucified. But I’ve known what it’s like to be cheered, hailed as a king, put on a pedestal and all the rest that goes with it.
   Frankly, you can have it. It’s worth about as much as – to borrow an image from your favorite holiday – the tinsel you put on the tree and later toss in the garbage.
AG: Well, as I said earlier, I meant no …
J: Let me finish. Every thing I went through for you and the rest of the world would be at best a horrific, inhumane, tragic event in history if my Father had not raised me from the dead. Raised me from the dead.
   Ponder that a moment, my friend. I died and I came back. Nobody else has done that since have they? No, they haven’t – because they can’t. Only my Father can do that.
   So if my coming back from the dead and not just coming back but offering the same kind of gift to all who want it – a gift of life eternal starting here and now is not enough to compete with Santa Claus and Christmas – well then, I guess there’s not that much I can do about that. Don’t forget there’s the business of free will. You get to choose what or who you value the most. And though many a time it grieves me, I wouldn’t have it any other way. If I have to force you to love me or believe in me – Well, I’m just going to do it. Love that’s forced isn’t love.
    I’ll grant you some things in life are more appealing than others – Chocolate ice cream versus broccoli, cleaning the bathroom versus lying on the beach and Advent versus Good Friday. But I’m prompted to suggest that you ask yourself – “Is only that which is appealing worth embracing? How does one really grow in life without learning how to handle suffering? Is there as much to be gained from challenging ones Faith as there is to simply believe without questioning? If I hadn’t died and risen again would Christmas mean that much in the long run? Would it really have the power to change whole world?”
AG: (A long pause) That’s a lot to take in. I ... I’m not sure I’m qualified to answer any of that.
J: Of course you are. And how you answer will indicate how and what you think of me. It will determine just how significant it is that Christmas may have more “pop” appeal than Easter. More importantly it will determine whether or not that’s even a question worth fooling with.
  I would strongly suggest a better question would be – What do I do with Mary’s little baby boy? -- now that he’s grown up, had his 3 years of ministry and been crucified for all the good it did? Moreover, I’ve been told he rose from the dead? What do I do with that? What in the world … do I do with that?
AG: (Silence)
Indeed, friends. What in the world … do we do with that?

George Gagliardi, April, 2014