Good morning, honey –
“He is risen!”
This would be how I would check to see if you were awake. At this point, assuming the song had done what it was intended to (and given that this is 6 o’clock in the morning that I’m playing this, that’s no guarantee. Knowing you and Daniel, you might very well be on the verge of violating Nanette’s Rule at this point – especially since you made a tradition of making rainbow Jell-o eggs for the family Easter dinner) and you were, you would respond with “He is risen indeed!” to which I would follow up with “He is risen, just as he said.” This little sign-countersign exchange was something I had learned growing up, and passed on to you, and you adopted it enthusiastically as an Easter greeting.
Although again, at 6 in the morning on any given Easter, the term ‘enthusiastically’ needs to be considered in relative terms. Still, once awoken, you never really hesitated to get up, whereupon we would shower together and get dressed in preparation for the morning.
Our church didn’t do sunrise services (although think about it: if they’re being held indoors, what difference would it make anyway?), but in order to arrive for the first of three services, we had to get up about two hours before we expected to leave, to ensure we had the time to make all the preparations we needed to do before heading out – washing, dressing, making sure Daniel had done the same, that sort of thing. So we were still up before the crack of dawn.
And this was how Easter always began.
I’m sure we must have done “Easter Bunny” type things once upon a time, when Daniel was really little, but once we were serving in so many capacities at church (and once the church had added so many services to accommodate the number of people hungry to get in and be fed), we really didn’t have a lot of time for that sort of thing. And considering how Daniel reacted when he figured out about Santa Claus, that was probably for the best: he did not appreciate the lie, despite my efforts to explain how Santa represented the spirit of giving at Christmas. “Just say the presents are from you,” he responded years later. “Why bring this fake guy into it?”
Okay, that’s nowhere near a direct quote. But that seemed to be his opinion, and y’know, I couldn’t argue with it.
So that being said, I think we phased the Easter Bunny out a lot sooner, and it was just as well. He wouldn’t have taken that story any better than Santa. Especially since, even more so than Saint Nick, our lapin friend distracts from the main purpose of the day.
This year, of course, will be vastly different. Oh, in some ways things will be closer to normal than they were last year. We can actually go and worship, and I’ll be making sure that the congregation can follow along each time. The family will actually be meeting after the last service for an Easter dinner – and, since it’s at a restaurant (which, admittedly, is a difference from most years, but not a particularly problematical one, because…) none of us in the family have to deal with preparation or cleanup – just the bill at the end.
But the “we” isn’t the same as it was. It’s great to get together with the folks in public once again, along with Jenn and Bill and the kids. But there is still that empty chair, and you have become our Elijah. Not that we expect you to show up any more than anyone who was celebrating Passover the previous week expects him to.
And once again, I feel my inner Martha stir up. Not insofar as to be (to flip a phrase on its head) so earthly minded that I’m no heavenly good, but in her ability to rise up and come to Jesus, acknowledging that you, like her brother, would rise again. Although I have an edge on her (or maybe she had an edge on me, having that kind of faith before anything happened), since I know Jesus raised Lazurus shortly thereafter, and most importantly, rose himself as we celebrate this day.
Or I could go even further back, to the oldest book of the Bible (in terms of when it was written), and consider Job, despite all he had been through – although, curiously, the one thing he didn’t lose throughout all his suffering was his wife, go figure – could still, in the midst of his complaints to God and his friends, acknowledge that his God, his… Redeemer (where did he come up with the thought that he needed redemption so long before even the Law and the prophets, to say nothing of the Gospel?) lived, and that he would see Him in person some day. Amazing faith, this man had; I could only wish to have a fraction of what he expressed at that moment.
Thank God, a fraction of faith is all anyone needs.
So, as I close out this letter to you this morning, before I have to get dressed and out of the house (to say nothing about dealing with Chompers – I hope he’ll be satisfied with a quick al fresco meal before I head out, although it’s true, Daniel’s for the morning, at least), I’m going to attach one more song: those old words that Job spoke, sung by one of our favorites, a man we never got to see as he passed away just before we got married and got into his music. Maybe you’ve had the chance to hang out with him these days, while he’s working on one of those “new songs” that John spoke of us singing in glory some day. But for now, the old, old story is good enough to relate.
“And because He lives, I can face tomorrow. Because He lives, all fear is gone. Because I know, He holds the future, and life is worth the living, just because He lives.”
We’ll talk again soon, honey. For now, He is risen!