Maybe Easter is a good illustration of what happens when Christians try too hard to accommodate themselves to secular culture in order to communicate the message of the Gospel. What I mean is that Easter actually has more to do with pagan ideas than Christian theology. It is very likely that the name Easter comes from the name for a pagan goddess worshipped among the early people of England as Estre, and of Germany as Oestern. Among these peoples she was regarded as the goddess of the dawn, the light, or even fertility. As is typical of paganism, in their ignorance of God’s revelation in Scripture, people ascribe divine powers to different aspects of nature, just as Paul describes this in Romans 1.
This is also the reason the time of celebrations surrounding the death and resurrection of Jesus is more closely connected to the spring solstice than it is to the regular Jewish Passover. And it also explains why the hare, with its prolific reproductive powers, is the Easter icon in secular culture. Though not related to rabbits, these associations of Easter is the reason for the season’s focus on eggs. It appears that Easter is the way we commonly refer to the celebration of Jesus’ death and resurrection because the Roman church adapted itself to the pagan ideas and practices of an earlier time. Unfortunately, we have been left with a pagan way of referring to the celebration of the most central event in history.
Maybe serious Christians should take a another look at calling the pivotal events of Jesus death and resurrection for our sins, Easter. Perhaps Christians, knowing the derivation of the ideas of Easter, should re-evaluate some of their Easter celebrations. What do you think? On the other hand, should Christians, in their efforts to be relevant in communicating the true nature of the Gospel, make a big deal out of these pagan ideas? It’s the kind of tension that true Christians continually have to consider. But maybe, if Roman Christians had been more discriminating originally, we wouldn’t have ended up with the kind of confusion that is associated with Easter today. Maybe they should have stuck with the idea of a New Passover and called it by that name, or something similar, to preserve the meaning of Jesus’ death and resurrection. And maybe the communication of the Gospel in the end could have been purer and more effective.
A reconsideration of how the concept of Easter developed might be a lesson on how Christians make the message of the Gospel known. On the eve of St. Patrick’s Day, this subject of relevant evangelism is also related to that little piece of history. Because if St. Patrick’s day is about anything, it seems to me that it is a poignant illustration of this very issue, the mixing of Christian ideas with local pagan practices. Relevancy in evangelism is important, but surely not at the expense of diluting the very nature of what the Gospel is all about. It’s just a thought….