*Pastor’s Note: Okay, okay, right off the bat you’re defensive and on guard. I don’t blame you! First, let me state that this is a lesson I did on one of my early ministry forums back in the early 2000’s. The exact year escapes me. I was trying to give some history with my teaching just so people would know where our celebration of Easter originated.
Second, I have long adopted Scripture in regard to people and how they celebrate Holy Days (hence the word holiday) and I stand firm on Scripture and allow the Lord through His Holy Spirit to judge heart motive. Sadly, I didn’t use the Scripture in the lesson when I gave it and so I am including it in this note.
One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. – Romans 14:5-6.
So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. – Colossians 2:16-17.
Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations – “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” which all concern things which perish with the using–according to the commandments and doctrines of men? These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh. – Colossians 2:20-23.
And for those of you who are sticklers, no, I did NOT take these verses out of the context with which they are inspired by the Holy Spirit. They ARE life to those who live by them. So, keep that in mind when you read some of the history I present to you.
Also, this is a vintage message, so I have made some updates to type and Scripture and added images for the website, but the main teaching is just as it was back in the early 2000’s. Because of it’s length, I have separated it into two parts. According to the resources I used, the term ‘Christian’ is pretty much used generically as you will see. I am hopeful that those of you reading understand what TRUE Christianity is and that it is not necessarily related to any one church organization, past or present. My goal is to provide you with some history and then how you choose to celebrate is between you and the Lord. Just remember the implications for your young families. Enjoy the season prayerfully.
Walking through our neighborhood Walmart soon after Valentine’s Day my wife and I noticed all the “Easter” baskets, bunnies, candies and such being put up in the isles. In fact just the other day, in later February, we noticed that upon all the clothes racks they had strategically placed large colored baskets wrapped in cellophane, covering a large assortment of candy, stuffed animals, a camera and little toy novelties, not to mention the plastic eggs that I am sure also carried candy or trinkets in them.
As I wandered through the store, my mind went to several of the television commercials that I had recently seen. The famous bunny representing the chocolate company that clucks like a chicken. Several commercials of stores not just advertising specials on “Easter” clothes, but also, believe it or not toys!! I turned to my wife and shaking my head, told her, I guess Easter is the next great shopping season for the stores and merchants.
The biggest shopping day of every year has always been known to be the day after Thanksgiving. Most merchants base their year’s worth of sales on this day. The second is the day after Christmas. Soon approaching these days I can imagine now is the time right before the Easter celebration. No I don’t have statistics concerning the Easter buying, but I’m also not blind to the trends going on in our society.
Oh, did I mention that in not one of these commercials or my walk through the stores did I see mention of Christ’s glorious Resurrection? I didn’t see specialty calendars, or Easter Bibles, anything, that had any spiritual connotation. That is outside of the few spiritually generic cards in the racks. Of course that wouldn’t be “politically correct” now would it??
Isn’t it amazing how society has turned such a significant part of ETERNAL history into another marketing ploy to garner even more riches for their bank accounts!! All the while we sit idly by watching as our “religious” leaders have Easter-egg hunts on their church lawns and hand out Easter bags for the kiddies with the very chocolate eggs and jelly-beans that the merchants are so swift to pawn off on anyone willing to spend their hard-earned money.
I know I sound hard, don’t get me wrong, I am not against celebrations or festivities. What I am against is the subtle exploitation of something so sacred, so awesome in its wonder and majesty as the crucifixion, death and resurrection of our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ, all for the sake of profit! It’s the proverbial LOVE of money warning staring us straight in the face!
We have sadly become a society that is willing to rearrange our priorities all for the sake of a few dollars. I know this is not my usual upbeat, loving style message that so many are used too, but doesn’t it WOUND your spirit, when you see these things taking place in our society?
Do you know that the mention of Easter is nowhere in the Bible? We have no record of the very early church celebrating this supposedly Holy celebration. Do you know when the first records of the church celebrating it came about? Well, the following is an excerpt from an internet encyclopedia. But, I also cross-referenced it with many other articles on the traditions and origins of Easter (as well as a couple of other holidays).
Easter And The Early Christian Church
“There is no indication of the observance of the Easter festival in the New Testament, or in the writings of the apostolic fathers. However, an Easter Homily does survive from the 2nd century which indicates that the practice arose quite early in the history of the Church.
The observance of any special holiday throughout the Christian year is an innovation postdating (meaning attributed to an earlier time) the early church. The ecclesiastical historian Socrates Scholasticus attributes the observance of Easter by the church to the perpetuation of local custom, “just as many other customs have been established”, stating that neither Jesus nor his apostles enjoined the keeping of this or any other festival. Many commentators, however, have interpreted the last supper as a Passover seder at which Jesus presided. In addition, Jesus and the Apostles were observing Sukkot (the “Feast of Booths”) when the Transfiguration occurred, indicating that he was not immediately opposed to the observance of annual holidays. The far more common worldwide name of the holiday, Pascha (or variations thereof) indicates that the holiday most likely arose as a continuation of Passover celebrations, with emphasis upon the Resurrection of Jesus.
Easter As A Germanic Heathen Festival
The Easter festival’s name in the English and German languages, and much of the symbolism now commonly associated with Easter in English-speaking countries but not in all traditionally Christian countries, are alleged to derive from Eostre, an alleged Germanic pagan goddess. Her primary festival, according to the 8th century English historian the Venerable Bede, fell in the spring during her month, Eostremonat. According to Bede, the word “Easter” is derived from the Old Norse Ostara or Eostre, a festival of spring at the vernal equinox, March 21, when nature is in resurrection after winter, hence, the symbolism of rabbits, notable for their fertility, and the eggs, colored like rays of the returning sun and the aurora borealis.
Children roll easter eggs in England and America but not in all traditionally Christian countries. They hunt the many-colored Easter eggs, brought by the Easter Bunny. Hidden in the play are, it has been argued, the vestiges of a fertility rite, the eggs and the rabbit both symbolizing fertility. (A rabbit, furthermore, was sometimes said to be the escort of the goddess, but there are no pre-19th century sources for this.) However, such claims ignore at least as ancient use of eggs as symbolic gifts among the Persians and Jews.
The First Council of Nicaea in 325 agreed that Easter (using the name “Pascha” in the original documents) should be celebrated on the same day throughout the church. There are extant homilies such as St. John Chrysostom’s Easter Homily, written in the 5th century, in Constantinople; or the Homily of the Pascha of Bishop Melito of Sardis, in the 2nd century, which refer to Easter. It is possible that, as the Germanic peoples were Christianized, the Christian Paschal celebrations which developed in non-Germanic areas merged with and assimilated features from the Eostre celebrations which took place at about the same time of the year in the Germanic countries, a merger that would have been eased by the resurrection/rebirth themes common to both.
Most of the symbols now attached to Christmas and Halloween are similarly said to be derived from the well-attested pre-Christian northern European pagan holidays of Yule and Samhain. According to this theory, Christian missionaries arriving in northern Europe found that, rather than trying to suppress popular and established pagan feasts, it was easier to simply provide a Christian reinterpretation of the holiday, and allow the various customs and symbols associated with the holiday to continue largely unchanged.
Bede’s “Ecclesiastic History of the English People” contains a letter from Pope Gregory I to Saint Mellitus, who was then on his way to England to conduct missionary work among the heathen Anglo-Saxons. The Pope suggests that converting heathens is easier if they are allowed to retain the outward forms of their traditional pagan practices and traditions, while recasting those traditions spiritually towards the one true God instead of to their pagan gods (whom the Pope refers to as “devils”), “to the end that, whilst some gratifications are outwardly permitted them, they may the more easily consent to the inward consolations of the grace of God.” (All emphasis in bold are mine).