I suspect that many people outside the church think that Christmas is the most important date in the Christian calendar. It isn’t Christmas, but Easter. While at Christmas we celebrate Jesus, the son of God coming to earth, taking on human form and living like we do. At Easter, we remember he died for us and was brought back to life.
As a Christian, I find a great deal of overlap between my faith and Liberal Democracy. In both, we are encouraged to think of others, to value everyone equally and to work for the greater good of all. Likewise, in both, people are seen as individuals. Jesus came in for a great deal of criticism during his lifetime from those who objected to the way he challenged vested interests, societal norms, privilege and injustice where ever he found them. He treated everyone as equals – women, foreigners, Roman soldiers, the disabled, divorcees, those who collaborated with the occupying forces and children, despite the mores of the age. Following his resurrection, he appeared first to women and told them to tell the men, even though the testimony of women was not considered reliable in Roman society.
As Christians, we’re often asked to consider What Would Jesus Do? (WWJD). Well, to be honest, as well as healing people and generally doing good, he also made a whip and whipped the money changers and traders out of the temple as they were overcharging pilgrims and using the temple to do it. Christians are not called to be wishy washy but to speak up for the voiceless and the marginalised and to challenge wrong doing. Indeed, for many great reformers, their Christian faith was the reason they campaigned for social reform – Wilberforce, Elizabeth Fry, Dr Barnardo, Lord Shaftsbury and Florence Nightingale to name just a few.
For me, the celebration of Easter begins on Maundy Thursday with a form of the Jewish Passover celebrations. It’s a time when we remember that the Christian faith is rooted in the Jewish religion so it’s not unusual for churches to celebrate a Passover style meal. Passover is the major festival of Judaism and celebrates the exodus, when the Jewish people left slavery in Egypt and journeyed to the Promised Land. It’s a lot of fun – we eat a Middle Eastern style meal of roast lamb, drink four glasses of red wine and tell the story of the exodus including reciting the plagues. But we also remember that straight after this meal, Jesus was betrayed by one of his disciples, arrested and crucified the next day. The Last Supper was not a sad meal, but a big celebration. But Friday is a sombre day when we remember the terrible suffering of the crucifixion. On Saturday we think of how Jesus’s followers must have wondered why his life had ended like that. But then on Sunday, we celebrate the resurrection. The Jewish day runs from sundown to sundown so while we think Jesus came back to life early on Sunday morning, it could equally have been after sundown on Saturday night. Some churches light a bonfire on Saturday night. I really like to celebrate the resurrection at dawn on Easter Sunday morning. It’s always cold, I’m always tired but it’s always worth getting out of bed to meet with people and read or act out the resurrection story while watching the sunrise. Followed by a very large breakfast.
However you choose to spend Easter, all at LDCF wish you a relaxing and enjoyable holiday.
Chair of LDCF