You just can’t imagine how crazy it is living in Saints Country!
For weeks before the Super Bowl, Saints fans were running around shouting “We won! We won! We won the Super Bowl!” It was nuts! I mean, the game had not even been played yet, and everyone was already celebrating.
OK, that didn’t really happen. Not with the Super Bowl, anyway.
But it happened with Christmas, and it’s happening with Easter.
I’ve linked before to this article that laments how Christmas has swallowed up Advent. Well, Christians are doing the same thing with Easter. Easter has swallowed up Holy Week, and it’s working its way through all of Lent, it seems. To be sure, Easter is worth celebrating, but we’ve got it backwards. Celebrating Easter before Easter is a little like Saints fans shouting “We won!” before the game was even played. Now Saints fans can be a little crazy, but they’re not that crazy.
So what did they do before the game? Sure they were excited. Sure they made plans for the game, either to go there or to watch it on TV. They invited their friends over, made lots of great food, made sure they had a Saints T-shirt or jersey to wear (or at least something that was black and/or gold), etc. And there were lots of cries of “Who dat?” (As in “Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints?” which is/was not the same thing as “We won!”) The preparation, the buildup, the anticipation, was part of the reason that, when the Saints actually did win, the celebration was as exuberant as it was: they were ready!
And the party went on and on. For days. Weeks. They are probably still celebrating it somewhere down in the French Quarter.
But when it comes to Easter, we don’t have as much sense as a crazed Saints fan, and that’s saying something.
I’ve heard/read countless pastors refer to the week we’re in now as “Easter Week.” People are celebrating Easter right now. The church next door to us had its big Easter celebration last Sunday. Churches are having Easter celebrations this Thursday and Friday nights: that’s right, on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. People are calling the day before Easter “Easter Saturday.”
First of all, the week–any week–begins on Sunday. Sunday is the first day of the week, not the last. That means that “Easter Week” begins on Easter Sunday. We are not in Easter Week right now: we are in Holy Week. It began with Palm Sunday. Since Palm Sunday is also sometimes known as the Sunday of the Passion, this week is also known as Passion Week.
Secondly, apart from the events of Holy Week, Easter is rendered meaningless. What can the Resurrection mean apart from the Crucifixion? What victory would the Saints fans have to celebrate if the Super Bowl had not been played? Easter is a celebration of Christ’s victory, but victory over what? Over death. Easter celebrates the salvation purchased by Christ by his suffering and death. Without Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday, there could be no Easter story. But too many Christians, too many churches, just cruise right into Easter without so much as a nod to Holy Week. Then it becomes all baskets and bunnies, devoid of significance. It becomes cries of “We won!” when there was no game played.
Finally, when we celebrate beforehand, we end up not celebrating when we should be celebrating. The party is probably going on still in the French Quarter somewhere, and why not? This was a big deal for all those fans whose team has never even been to the Super Bowl before, much less won it! Of course they’re going to savor that victory. Again, here Christians don’t even have as much sense as a Saints fan. We call December 26th the “day after Christmas” instead of the Second Day of Christmas, which it really is. Instead of savoring the event, we stuff it back in the box. Those who refer to Holy Saturday (the day before Easter, which is supposed to commemorate Christ’s body lying in the tomb, awaiting the Resurrection) as “Easter Saturday” have long stopped celebrating Easter by the time the real Easter Saturday rolls around–six days after Easter Sunday. And if Christians don’t savor the Twelve Days of Christmas (December 25th through Epiphany), you can bet they certainly don’t celebrate the victory of Christ over death for the Great Fifty Days of Easter (Easter to Pentecost).
When it comes to football, we understand. We get it right. Why do we get it backwards when it comes to celebrating a victory that really matters? (No offense intended, Saints fans, but you know, it is only a football game.)