As a regular church-goer, my favorite time of year for worship is sunrise service on Easter morning—even if it means getting up early and bundling up in very un-Easterly mittens and jackets.
One Easter morn a few years ago, the weather turned nasty and I had to travel to three churches before I found an outdoor service. It was held, of all places, at the city cemetery, which doubles as an arboretum.
The pastor was of a fundamentalist leaning. If I don’t recall the specifics of his sermon, the fault is all mine—and the nest of eggs that I spotted on the ground. Just six feet from where I sat on a cement bench, a trinity of eggs rested in a camouflaged nest assembled from recycled twigs and downy feathers.
Ma Duck squawked nearby, not happy with the two-legged intruders. I don’t blame her. During laying season, she produces one egg per day until she reaches a full clutch of 10–12, which is when the confining work of incubation begins. Until then, she is free to wander, always keeping at least one eye on her defenseless progeny.
As a mother, I empathized. No parent wants to see her offspring come to harm. As one of the most important celebrations on the Christian calendar, Easter is about more than plastic eggs and cellophane grass. It’s about birth and re-birth, redemption and resurrection.
At the same time, I felt sorry for the pastor. It’s difficult enough to deliver a sermon with crying babies and snoring grandpas in the pews; imagine preaching with a mad Mallard in the front row! But grace intervened. Instead of talking over the duck, the pastor incorporated her into his sermon, just as all Christians are invited to become part of the eternal Easter story.
After the outdoor service, physically chilled but spiritually warmed, I headed home. On the way, I passed by Main Street’s storefront windows, be-decked with Easter sale signs.
If my favorite part of the season is sunrise service, my least favorite is commercialism. At the risk of sounding like an Easter Grinch, I feel myself cringing at all the merchandising, advertising, and pastel M&M’s that start filling the stores after Valentine’s Day.
Advertisers spend more money on candy ads in the weeks leading up to Easter ($91 million in 2007) than they do on Halloween ($62 million). In the U.S. alone, we purchase more than 17 million egg coloring kits and spend a total of $14 billion—yeah, that’s billion with a “B”—on Easter stuff per year.
But it doesn’t all have to be about getting and spending. You can have fun and still celebrate the season. In fact, based on his most famous open-air speech—the Sermon on the Mount—I think it’s safe to infer that Jesus might prefer a somewhat more meek and humble celebration.
As his disciple Paul once said, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2, NIV). With those marching orders, this year you might want to consider a less-consumptive, more environmentally friendly, approach to Easter.
|Instead of||Do This|
|Buying a new outfit||Bundle up and head to a sunrise service|
|Consuming cream-of-whatever casseroles||Include locally grown produce in Easter brunch|
|Ordering exotic flowers||Give a potted plant|
|Stocking up on chocolate bunnies||Seek out fair trade chocolate|
|Watching Sunday sports on TV||Take a hike with friends and family|
|Hiding plastic eggs||Sow peas in the garden|
|Sending Easter cards||Plant a tree|
During the week leading up to Easter, you might want to plan a family service project, such as picking up trash in your neighborhood or serving a meal to the homeless. And remember to extend compassion and hospitality, as Jesus did—welcoming new neighbors, the lonely, and the elderly to your table.
Nancy Sleeth is the co-founder of Blessed Earth, an educational nonprofit that inspires and equips people of faith to become better stewards of the Earth. She is the author of Almost Amish: One Woman’s Quest for a Slower, Simpler, More Sustainable Life.