Christmas may get the lion’s share of the commercial attention, but for Christians, today is without question the holiest of all holidays and the most important: It is the day Jesus Christ arose again, conquering death on the cross and three days in a tomb.
And by his overcoming death, those who believe in him have the hope of doing so as well.
A holiday of hope
The Rev. D.L. Webb is pastor of Sybene Independent Missionary Baptist Church. He said his Easter sermon will focus on “the cardinal doctrine of hope” that is at the core of the message of this season.
“Jesus overcame death and hell and the grave and he is alive for evermore,” Webb said. “Not only did Jesus die, he rose again. If he had just died, there would be no hope. He is not like any other king, he is the King of Kings and he arose bodily from the grave.”
The Rev. Sallie Schisler, pastor of Christ Episcopal Church in Ironton, said the hope of Easter is that regardless of what situation one may find themself in, there is a way out.
Her Good Friday sermon, using passages of Psalms 40 and 69, focused on how our lives can sometimes seem mired in mud — the mud of self-absorption, of self-pity and other earthly ills that may seem insurmountable.
But with Easter comes that hope that whatever amount of mud one may be sinking in at the moment, there is hope of a way out of that mud — Jesus Christ.
“For today, it seems as if the mud might win but because we know the rest of the story, we know this is a temporary condition,” Schisler said.
The Rev. Charles Moran, pastor of St. Ann Catholic Church in Chesapeake, said Easter reaffirms both old and new testament scripture in that God made man and then, for the sake of man, sent a savior that would never abandon mankind.
The hope of this holiday is that the death and resurrection of that savior allows us to be free from sin and live in harmony with Christ. Easter, then, is the holiday of hope and grace.
“Holiness refers to the fact we live, through grace, in unity with the Lord God and the resurrection ultimately allows us to enter into a relationship with God,” Moran said.
If Easter is the season of hope and rebirth it is also a call to Christians to renew their commitment to the Christ who called them out of their sin.
“While Easter is only one day a year, as Christians we are called to be Easter people every single day,” Schisler said. “We always have Christ and we are to live into that hope.”
Moran had a similar sentiment.
“We can’t get enough of the Lord Jesus in our lives and this season speaks to his presence in us. We should always reflect on the fact that all things are possible with God,” Moran said.
Webb said this season is one in which everyone can rejoice but most especially Christians.
Easter, he said, is the core of the gospels in that greatest gift — the gift of salvation — was given by God when Jesus died on the cross but then rose again and Christians have the hope that someday they will be united with him for all eternity.
“He rose again and ascended into heaven, back to the father but he will come back,” Webb said.
Spreading the word
Throughout Holy Week and indeed today, there have been countless sermons preached in area churches about the significance of Jesus’ death.
There have been special services, Easter cantatas and even cross walks, or other re-enactments of the season, all meant to encourage the faithful as well as spread the gospel.
Some churches have opted to get their message across — and draw in new crowds — with a less formal approach. Saturday at the Lawrence County Fairgrounds, a couple thousand people came to the annual Easter Egg hunt there.
In the past, the Proctorville egg hunt has been sponsored by Sanctuary of Grace Church; this year members there were joined by members of New Hope United Methodist, Living Grace Bible Church, First Baptist, all of Proctorville, and Finley Chapel United Methodist of Chesapeake, and Living Hope Bible Church in Barboursville, W.Va.
Roughly 200 volunteers directed traffic, sat down to paint flowers and footballs and Spongebob on countless little faces and hid some 20,000 Easter eggs that were snatched up by little hands with almost amazing speed.
Mickey Bane was one of those volunteers.
“It’s a great turnout,” he said. “We had a lot of people praying the rain would hold off and the Lord answered those prayers. Everyone’s coming out. It’s great.”
Bane said he is often asked why he and other volunteers take their Saturday before a holiday and stand out on a wet fairground hiding eggs and directing traffic. Why do they do what they do? Bane said the reason is simple.
“We want families to know Jesus loves them,” he said. “And we want to be able to show that love to their children. We live in a world that, so often, somebody is out to get something. This is free. We just want them to know Jesus loves them.”
The same was true of Cross Community Church in South Point, which organized an Easter Egg Hunt at the Lawrence County Airpark in Chesapeake Saturday afternoon.
More than 2,000 eggs were scattered across a field at the end of the runway. Several hundred people showed up to claim them.
“We were kind of joking, what if we did this and nobody showed up?” Cross Community Church member David Hamilton mused as he watched the steady flow of people pass in front of him. “What a surprise, huh?”
Asked to estimate the crowed he blinked and replied, “Wow.”
Like their fellow Christians in Proctorville, the point of Cross Community Church’s Easter egg hunt was to spread the gospel, not with a sermon but with the hand of Christian friendship.
“We’re just trying to bring people together,” Hamilton said. “It’s all about giving and that’s what Christ was about — giving.”
Plans in Proctorville
Four-year-old Maira Morgan, of Cincinnati, came to see family but wound up at the Lawrence County Fairgrounds, ready to claim some eggs. And even Friday night’s torrential rain, which created puddles little and big at the fairground, didn’t discourage her. In Spider Man rain boots she was good to go. How many eggs was she aiming to collect? She held up 10 little fingers.
“I want green ones and pink ones,” she said. But one purple egg caught her attention too and when the fire truck sounded its siren at the start of the hunt, Maira was off and scooped up that purple egg, to the amusement of Mom, Amanda Grossman, who waited on the sidelines.
“She had her heart set on that purple egg and she got it,” Grossman said.
Some fun in Chesapeake
Eight-year-old Ronald Parrish had a plan.
“Run as fast as I can and get as many eggs as I can,” the Chesapeake youngster said with a smile while waiting for the chance to collect eggs at the Lawrence County Airpark. His dad, also Ronald Parrish, said one particular egg most interested his son: the one that would entitle him to a free Nintendo DS player that would be given away.
“That’s the one thing he’s been talking about,” the elder Parrish said.
Just a few feet away, Shane ONeill, of South Point, gave some last minute instructions to his niece, Lilli O’Neill.
“Get ready, and to find me afterward just look for this truck,” he told her. This was five-year-old Lilli’s first Easter egg hunt and O’Neill was impressed at the size of it.
“It’s great what they’ve got going on here,” he said of the Cross Community Church effort.
The Chesapeake egg hunt was to feature a hot air balloon and an Easter bunny that would drop eggs from the balloon. Wind gusts were the reported culprit that kept the hot air balloon on the ground. The Easter Bunny put in an appearance anyway.