A different kind of Easter in the middle of a pandemic

This is not how any of us imagined Easter would look.

Because I am the Director of Family Ministry at my church, Easter is usually one of the busiest times of the year for me.

There’s the Sunday morning Easter egg hunt. Invitations are prepared and delivered. Over a thousand eggs are assembled and counted. After an extensive search, special Easter items are ordered. Age-appropriate treat bags are stuffed and sorted. Signs are printed. Volunteers are confirmed. Safety procedures are in place. Weather is checked and rechecked with a backup plan in case of rain.

An Easter brunch involves coordinating volunteer cooks and servers and shopping for groceries and supplies. Setting up tables and chairs for over two hundred people. Preparing crafts for the tables, getting out high chairs and boosters. Making coffee, greeting guests, visiting with families, and cleaning up everything before the end of the day.

Worship is the most important part of Easter! My role includes planning and presenting a message to help children experience the meaning of Easter. Assigning acolytes and giving them special Easter instructions. Scheduling extra workers for children’s programming and the church nursery. Preparing coloring pages and books that help reinforce the Easter story. Helping with the flowered cross. Studying my files ahead of time so I am able to call every child by name, including grandchildren that I might not have seen since Christmas.

And Easter also means family traditions like Easter baskets and trying to squeeze in a meal with family — usually a late lunch before I go back to church to finish cleaning up the breakfast.

In spite of the busyness, I absolutely love Easter!

The gorgeous display of flowers, glorious special music, the worship center packed with a congregation singing exuberantly, little children in colorful new clothes, and the miraculous message of hope and life delivered by the pastors. Easter is an exciting and joyful time!

This year Easter will be different.

There will be no elaborate egg hunt or brunch in the crowded gym. Worship will still be glorious, but it will be shared online and not in a packed worship center. I won’t worry about what I wear. The only flowers I might see will be those I notice on a walk in my neighborhood. This Easter will be stripped-down, simplified, and bare. And I believe that this year I will experience more of the true meaning of Easter than ever before.

After Jesus was killed, his friends grieved. They thought about things they used to do with Jesus, even simple everyday things. Now they couldn’t walk with him or talk in person or eat together. They missed him. If you have lost a loved one to death, you know what that feels like.

We grieve the loss of our friends during this pandemic when we are physically separated and can’t be together. Children are missing their friends and teachers, and teachers are missing their students. Extended families are missing birthday parties and other special occasions. We grieve that loss.

School closures have been extended beyond this date.

For three years the disciples watched and listened as Jesus showed them who God is. They heard his teachings and learned at his feet. But after his death, they weren’t prepared to know what to do without him. They were confused and lacked direction.

Our congregations are not gathering in large groups to listen to our pastors and Sunday school teachers inspire us with the words of God. Our worship is live-streamed or prerecorded, and our faith formation is happening in unfamiliar ways. It creates some uncertainty. What should we do next?

No large gatherings are permitted.

Because Jesus’ disciples were afraid, they stayed in their homes, locked behind closed doors. They didn’t travel out into the community for fear of their lives. Their entire future was at stake. The world was a dangerous place.

Now we are in our homes. Sheltered in place. We might be angry because some of our familiar places are closed. But there is real danger in venturing out beyond our walls. We may feel afraid.

Parks and playgrounds are closed.

So what’s left of Easter?

Everything that is important about Easter is still true and present and awesome. Even now. Especially now.

On that first Easter, God made Jesus alive again and proved that God is more powerful than the worst bad thing. God is more powerful than sadness or anger or fear or death.

Can you imagine how those grieving, confused, and frightened disciples felt when they learned that their friend, their teacher, their Lord was alive again? That’s how we can feel this Easter!

No matter what happens or what we are going through, our powerful God — the one who is powerful enough to overcome death — is alive and with us!

Because of Easter we have hope. Because of Easter we have life. Because of Easter we have joy.

So please don’t “cancel Easter.” Easter parties or picnics or dinners or egg hunts may be canceled, but Easter is not canceled. Celebrations can be simpler but filled with real meaning. Drive to the top of a big hill with your family on Easter morning and watch the sunrise. Look for flowers. Breathe in the peace that comes with knowing that someday we will emerge from our homes into a transformed world.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

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