AS CHRISTIANS across the globe prepare to mark the holy week of Easter, Christopher Azzaro, of the Littlehampton United Church, is looking at why more people seem to be avoiding the real story behind Easter.
Christmas comes with plenty – some might say too much – free publicity, thanks to the retail industry.
However, Easter, barring a few fluffy bunnies and plenty of chocolate, doesn’t really have the same widespread appeal.
Whereas the giving of gifts at Christmas is symbolic of God’s gift of love, the Easter bunny really does not say much about the sacrifice of Christ upon the cross.
Even the idea of new life in springtime – which is a really good thought on a fine sunny morning – is a big step away from eternal life through the resurrection.
Good Friday was once remembered with hot cross buns, but these are now available in supermarkets the whole year round.
Is the cross of Christ still special?
While the lead-up to Christmas gets more and more exciting, the build-up to Easter becomes more and more sombre as we reflect on the coming events of Good Friday.
Which is the more appealing? To use the 40 days of Lent as an opportunity to adjust one’s weight by giving up chocolate or cakes?
Or to seriously reflect on why an itinerant preacher should deliberately travel to the city where he knew he would be arrested, tried and condemned to death?
In Littlehampton High Street, on Good Friday morning, Christians will be re-enacting some of the events that led to Jesus’ crucifixion.
Hopefully, many others will join in and reflect that this a day is a bank holiday because of what happened nearly 2,000 years ago.
Hindsight, it is often said, is a wonderful thing.
As we look forward to Easter with increasing sadness in Holy Week, we know that on Easter Sunday morning our sadness will be replaced by celebration.
The suffering will be over; Jesus has conquered death.
The message that our wrong-doings can be forgiven can be shouted loud and clear.
We will say the traditional greeting: he is risen – he is risen, indeed!
Easter Sunday changes everything.
Jesus, who was genuinely dead and buried, is alive.
The fears and tears of Good Friday are forgotten.
The descriptions of that first Easter Sunday in the four gospels differ in emphasis.
The four writers show the fear of the disciples as they dared to believe what had actually happened, their joy as they discovered that death is not the end, and the knowledge that the love of God is so deep that he sent his own son to die for us on a cross.
There really is a lot to celebrate at Easter.