Easter is the counterpoint of Christmas and both are wonderful, but I’m not sure which one is my “favourite.” I don’t really have favourites, much to my daughter’s chagrin. I do, however, love to “compare and contrast” like most writers.
Easter allows us to enter into the story of Christ’s coming to earth to atone for the sin of the world and make a way back to very personal, intimate contact with God our Father, in a different way than the Christmas story of his Nativity. Easter, of course, is the end of a chapter. And the start of a whole new lease on life for those who believe. Christmas is the great gateway: come one, come all, goodwill among Men and peace on Earth is the overriding message of the holiday. But at Easter there’s a particular claim on us being made, a demand, a question of faith.
There is a reckoning that happens at Easter that we don’t see at the homely, approachable manger. Here at the foot of the Cross of Christ, we are confronted with a whole new dimension of God’s power and judgement on sin. A whole new depth of forgiveness.
I’ve had people ask me about this path of forgiveness lately. And I’ve written and shared a lot in response, because it’s such a key, critical question because it’s linked to the place where we live, in our heart, in relationship to God, his creation and his creatures.
If we are trying to live close to the foot of the cross, where we come to lay our burdens down, and here, we find unforgiveness in our heart, then we know we will have a problem. We know we will not be able to walk away from this place totally free, until we find forgiveness.
But, for it to be real, for us to live with spiritual integrity, there must also be a real clearing of the air, a sharing of our truth, a telling of our story. We must be heard to know we are forgiven, or be able to forgive others where they’ve hurt us, and may even continue to be hurting us. In this last case, being heard also means receiving some sign of repentance or other godly sorrow on their part. We must be heard, and acknowledged in a tangible way, to forgive, from our heart.
There must be some acknowledgement of a wrong done or being done (on our part, or their’s). We must live into a deeper reality to find or offer a deeper forgiveness. This is so important; to know that forgiveness is not a blanket statement: a get out of jail free card. That’s not grace. That’s self-deception.
We sense this when we come to the foot of the cross on Easter. When we stop. And pause here with the stripped and beaten Christ. When we come to terms with his suffering on our behalf (and of the whole world), then it’s unlikely we’ll turn around and make light of it in our relationships with others. Once we’ve seen Christ in this position, we come to know the value of real relationship. Forgiveness costs. It requires a reckoning, and often something as basic as being heard.
Did Christ pay the price? Absolutely: he paid it in full. But does that make it cheap, or forgiveness something someone else can take for granted from us? I don’t think so. I’ve found forgiveness, when it’s real, is the only real path to spiritual freedom and relational reconciliation. But when it’s not real and offered in name only, it can lead to a hardening of hearts that leaves people worse off than they were before, when the issue was still outstanding but at least no one was saying, “I forgive you,” when they didn’t really mean it, or the problem had not been talked about and/or meaningfully addressed.
At Christmas we come to the manger and fall easily on our knees, in worship. There’s a flood of light and grace in our hearts. The heavens are wide open and the angels sing. But at Easter, there are tears. Still a large amount of wonder and awe at the Empty Tomb, in light of the Resurrection, but many tears, fears faced and betrayals realized, leading up to this moment of final release of death’s grip. But on the other side of forgiveness given and received, we find ourselves as full participants in The New Life. The life we are called to share in Christ thanks to the wisdom and forethought of God the Father; a new life guaranteed by the deposit of the Holy Spirit within us.
At Easter, there’s lots here to unpack (perhaps even more than there is to unwrap at Christmas) but for now, I’d like to bow a little more pointedly, with a little more pathos and pause, at the foot of the cross and say, “Thank You, Lord for all you have done that we might go free; forgive and be forgiven,” sure that we are heard in this, our prayer one for the other. Amen.
Dayna Mazzuca is a writer, speaker and poet working from home in Sylvan Lake. Her formal background is in Philosophy, Journalism and Spiritual Formation. These topics tend to overlap in her writings on the spiritual journey, her eight books of poetry and her online work. Her most recent project is an online course called “The Power of Authentic Storytelling” and can be found on her new site – www.daynamazzuca.com.