What Does Easter Have to Do with New Year’s?

What Does Easter Have to Do with New Year’s?

I spent my New Year’s Eve like I usually do.  I went to bed early without the slightest inkling that I needed to bring in the New Year.  Honestly, I’ve never really understood why the New Year is such a big deal to some people.  One day is the same as the next except you have to remember to change the year when you date things.  The New Year is now giving way to Spring and most resolutions are a forgotten memory or a bitter disappointment.  When thinking on these things, it occurred to me that what people really crave (and need) are new beginnings.  Spring, like the New Year, is a new beginning for nature.  The flowers (or in our yard, the weeds) start to peek through the dormant grass and begin to bloom.  The hope of renewed life and warmer weather are on the horizon.  

Part of the human experience is that we need new experiences, new knowledge, new beginnings.  Rarely are we satisfied with the same-old, same-old.  Part of our essence as the imago Dei (image bearers of God) is that we create.  Creation is never satisfied with the status quo.  It craves newness – in art, engineering, medical, technology, exploration – in every aspect of humanity.  Perhaps that’s why we celebrate the newness of a coming year.

There’s also something invigorating and life giving about eliminating something from your life that isn’t working, especially something that really bogs you down.  Although moving from something you’ve become accustomed to in your life (even if it isn’t working) to something new can be frightening and difficult.  New things add some excitement and can certainly instill a feeling of hope and betterness in your life (at least for a while).  Maybe the human craving for renewal is also that we instinctively know we are never all that we can or should be.  Our common plight is that we are all painfully aware that we fall short of perfection and that we can never reach that goal no matter how hard we try.  

Nobody’s perfect, right?

Well, there was that one guy…

His story is told in an ancient book called the Bible about a Jewish carpenter’s son from Nazareth who was born in Bethlehem to a virgin mother.  Angels announced his birth to some shepherds and a hand full of Magi traveled from the east, following a star, to bring expensive gifts to the baby Messiah.  Despite the efforts of a powerful ruler, the baby grows up.  Other than a single story about his parents leaving him behind in the temple after attending the religious feast of Passover in Jerusalem, not much is said about him until he is in his early thirties when he becomes a traveling speaker and miracle worker.  

This man named Jesus angered the religious leaders who accused him of blasphemy for claiming to be God.  They eventually convinced the Roman government to put him to death.  The official Roman charge was treason and he was crucified under Pontius Pilate just outside of Jerusalem at a place called Golgotha (or Calvary).   He died, he was buried in a tomb, and some time shortly after his burial, the tomb was found empty by a group of women.  The body of Jesus was never found.  Thousands of people are said to have seen him alive after his crucifixion and many of those who confessed that he rose from the dead died horrible deaths themselves because they refused to recant their stories.  Early believers in the resurrection of Jesus the Christ (Messiah) were called Christians.  

Michael Licona declares that the whole of Christianity stands or falls on the resurrection of Jesus.  Gary Habermas agrees and says that “if Jesus, son of God, died on the cross for our sins, was raised again, and you have a relationship with Him, you don’t have to solve any other major questions.”  The resurrection of this Jesus is the pivotal point in human history.  C.S. Lewis contends that we must all come to a decision about Jesus – is he a liar, a lunatic, or Lord?

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

I say Lord and because Jesus overcame death – something no one else in history has been able to accomplish.  His renewed life likewise offers us the renewal we so desperately crave.  We don’t have to be stuck in the mud and muck of human existence forever.  In the here and now, we are offered renewal of our minds (Rom 12:2) and in the later/not yet, we will have renewal of our bodies as well (Phil 3:20-21).  After death, followers of Christ will ultimately slough off the old corruptible body in exchange for an incorruptible body and along with it, enjoy a new resurrected life in the New Heavens and New Earth in the presence of our Lord.  N.T. Wright points out that we don’t just go to heaven when we die, there is life after the life after death.  (Surprised by Hope, p. 151)  “Heaven, in the Bible, is not a future destiny but the other, hidden, dimension of our ordinary life – God’s dimension, if you like.  God made heaven and earth; at the last he will remake both and join them together forever…we will find not ransomed souls making their way to a disembodied heaven but rather the New Jerusalem coming down from heaven to earth, uniting the two in a lasting embrace.” (Surprised by Hope, p.19)  

Paul explains it more fully in Romans 8:18-25:

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.  For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.  For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.  For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.  And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.  For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

So what does Easter have to do with New Year’s?  For the Christian, Easter celebrates a New Year in our earthly life and brings us one year closer to our new eternal life.  Easter, not coincidentally, ushers in spring and thus renewed life to the earth.  N.T. Wright says it well:

…Easter ought to be a time to take things up….Easter is the time to sow new seeds and to plant out a few cuttings.  If Calvary means putting to death things in your life that need killing off if you are to flourish as a Christian and as a truly human being, then Easter should mean planting, watering, and training up things in your life (personal and corporate) that ought to be blossoming, filling the garden with color and perfume, and in due course bearing fruit….But if you really make a start on it, it might give you a sniff of new possibilities, new hopes, new ventures you never dreamed of.  It might bring something of Easter into your innermost life.  It might help you wake up in a whole new way.  And that’s what Easter is all about.  (Surprised by Hope, p.257)

Happy Easter!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *