Christians celebrate their high holy day Sunday
On Easter Sunday Christians celebrate both life and hope.
“The greatest thing about Easter is that it represents the life we have in Christ,” said Calvary Chapel Pastor Tommy Schneider. “God’s plan from the beginning is for us to have life with him. It not only represents the forgiveness of sin, but also the life we get to live with him.”
For Christians, Easter celebrations mark Jesus’ resurrection, following his crucifixion three days before on what’s now referred to as Good Friday. One of the foundations of the Christian faith is a belief that Jesus died as a sacrifice for our sins and that through his death people will be forgiven for those sins.
Christians say believing in Jesus’ resurrection – his raising from the dead – enables victory over death and eternal life in Heaven.
These teaching begin early for most Christians. Sunday at Calvary Chapel, for example, kids will be able to play on big bouncy toys. But the lessons they’ll take away from the service, as with Christian services throughout the nation, is the foundation of the Christian faith.
Churches everywhere anticipate packed houses, as people who don’t attend worship services regularly will get up to attend sunrise services – traditionally considered the time of day Jesus’ tomb was discovered to be empty.
“The main focus is that every child understands that God loves them and has beautiful life plan for them,” said Schneider. “Adults also need to understand that some of what they face in daily life is imprisoning them in a life that’s less than they could have. People need to understand that they, too, can be set free.”
Easter Sunday concludes the season of Lent, the 46-day period just prior to Easter Sunday. It begins on Ash Wednesday. Holy Week itself begins with Palm Sunday – the Sunday before Easter – marking the day Christians believe Jesus made his triumphant entrance into Jerusalem.
Some biblical scholars say that from strictly a political standpoint, this could have been Jesus’ biggest public moment as his popularity reached his zenith. It was followed just days later, though, by his trial, sentencing and execution on the cross – Good Friday.
Christians’ Easter celebrations hark back to Christianity’s Jewish roots, especially the Jewish festival of Passover, or Pesach. Passover is one of the year’s three Jewish holy days, celebrated for eight days. Passover is a celebration of the Israelites winning their freedom from slavery in Egypt.
Many early Christians were solidly grounded in their Hebrew traditions and regarded Easter as a different aspect of their Passover celebrations.
The Christian Holy Week includes the Jewish holy day of Passover, when the final of the 10 plagues against Egypt killed the first born from every Egyptian household. Israelites were spared after God instructed them, through Moses, to paint their door frames with the blood of a sacrificed lamb.
– Secular spring festival traditions: Foremost was the ancient Saxons celebrated the return of spring with a festival honoring Eastre, their goddess of offspring and of springtime.
– The date of Easter: Prior to A.D. 325, Easter was variously celebrated on different days of the week, including Friday, Saturday and Sunday. In that year, the Council of Nicaea was convened by Emperor Constantine. It issued the Easter Rule, which states that Easter shall be celebrated on the first Sunday that occurs after the first full moon on or after the vernal equinox.
– The cross: The cross is the symbol of the Crucifixion, as opposed to the Resurrection. However, at the Council of Nicaea, in A.D. 325, Constantine decreed that the cross was the official symbol of Christianity. The cross is not only a symbol of Easter, but it is more widely used, especially by the Catholic Church, as a year-round symbol of their faith.
– The Easter Bunny: The Easter bunny is not a modern invention. The symbol originated with the pagan festival of Eastre. The goddess, Eastre, was worshipped by the Anglo-Saxons through her earthly symbol, the rabbit.
– The Easter egg: As with the Easter Bunny and the holiday itself, the Easter Egg predates the Christian holiday of Easter. The exchange of eggs in the springtime is a custom that was centuries old when Easter was first celebrated by Christians.