Today was not the kind of day we hope for when looking forward to Easter. We tend to hope for sunny skies, warm temperatures and a sense that spring is fully and finally upon us at last. Today was not like that. Today was cloudy and cold and the sharp wind blew a few snowflurries across the frozen-again landscape. Not at all what we had hoped for.
I have been doing a lot of thinking about Easter services and the effort many churches make to portray the day as something other than what it really is...or was for that matter. This morning churches were filled with Easter lillies, bright springy dresses, and special music that was probably more grandiose than usual. The reasons given usually have to do with symbolism... lillies (depending the source consulted)to symbolize purity, hope, or radiance of the risen Christ, springy clothing to represent new life, and swelling strains of music, particularly of organ and brass, to stand in for the supposed angelic choral anthems that might have greeted the newly resurrected Jesus.
Personally, I find these depicitions of Easter distracting, in part because they misrepresent what that pivotal, historic morning was actually like. I imagine that whatever was or was not blooming on the day Jesus left the tomb was, quite likely, the same as what was or was not blooming on the day he died. I imagine that the garden around the tomb was typically a quiet place and that the stillness of that morning was broken only by the sounds of the women's footsteps and furtive whispers. The text tells of an angel's presence at the tomb, but makes no mention of anthems or an angelic choir or of disciples showing up in beautiful new clothes.
I came away from just such a service this morning, hungry to meet God in the cold and quiet stillness of the out-of-doors. I noticed symbolism of resurrection and new life everywhere I looked in my own slowly-awakening garden. Unfolding leaves of wild columbine, bleeding heart and tiarella were not showy but they reminded me of rebirth and beginning life anew. Goldfinches growing in new feathers and taking on their bright yellow breeding plumagage matched the daffodils that have been blooming for a while, now. The robins and house finches sang as beautifully as any choir and reminded me of their own eternal Choirmaster.
One of the appealing aspects of Easter sunrise services is that they are often held outside, where God is sought in the simple glory of the early morning. They seem a testimony to the fact that, if we are willing and if we have eyes to see, we will find God's handprints in the wonders of His natural world. He has left living symbols of His faithfulness all over what He has made, if we will but take the time to note and understand them. And if we make the effort to seek out what He has implanted, we will find that even on cold and cloudy Easters, as miniature leaves are just beginning to emerge, we will see glimpses of His grace...just by looking.