There is a popular car magnet that says, “Keep Christ in Christmas.” I don’t have one of these magnets myself, so I’m taking the risk of making an assumption about people who do, but as I understand it, the gist is that some people feel that Christmas has become too secular and that the religious meaning of the holiday, the celebration of the birth of Jesus, has been lost. The idea is that we should remember the “reason for the season” and I think they have a valid point. It is called Christmas for christ’s sake (pun unrepentantly intended).
So what about Easter? Well, there are car magnets for that too. They have a similar design and say, “Keep Eostre in Easter.” According to the site that sells them, they are a “Pagan/Secular parody of the ‘Keep Christ in Christmas’ Car Magnet.” The maker was inspired to create them after someone asked them why they celebrate Christmas even though they are not a Christian. Their response was, “You don’t believe in Eostre, yet you celebrate Easter.” And honestly, I think they have a pretty good point too.
Asking which side is right is a little like asking who would win in a fist fight between Dr. King and Mahatma Gandhi. It misses the point entirely. If I have to take a stand, my stand is going to be against picking a side. I’m not going to give up these Christian holidays or their pagan roots. You don’t have to believe in traditional Christian dogma to exchange gifts and sing Christmas carols, and you don’t have to be a pagan to decorate a tree and hang some mistletoe. You don’t have to be a Christian to celebrate the life and work of Jesus, and you don’t have to worship Eostre to color Easter eggs and eat a chocolate bunny.
We’re going to celebrate Easter this year with a sunrise communion service. We’ll use the ritual from our own Unitarian hymnal from 1937 when Unitarians were still primarily Christian, but this isn’t intended to be exclusively for people who identify themselves as Christians. Some may participate as a sacrament that recognizes Jesus as the incarnation of God and the key to salvation. Others may see it as a recognition of the historical teacher and his teachings. For some, this might be an opportunity to reclaim a part of their religious past that they thought they had to leave behind. Others might just show up out of curiosity or because this is the first time they’ve felt welcome to a communion service, but that’s the beauty of Unitarian Universalism. With a “free and responsible search for truth and meaning” rather than a prescribed dogma, we can experience this ritual together as a community and still decide for ourselves what it means for us as individuals. Better yet, we can simply show up with an open mind and an open heart and let the meaning unfold as it will.
Spring is a time for renewal. We welcome the flowers and the leaves on the trees. We welcome warmer, sunnier days, and the sound of crickets at night. We welcome these old familiar sights and sounds even though we have changed and become someone different than we were last year. This is a time for seeing old things in new ways. We return again to this place in the year with eyes that are a year older, and hopefully a little wiser. So I encourage you to try and see Jesus, and everything else for that matter, in a new way this Easter season. I think Eostre would want it that way.