Altar Call Ė Opelika-Auburn News
Walter Albritton
April 8, 2007

Why so many people go to church on Easter Sunday

††††††††† Some of my dearest friends have decided to stop using the word ďEaster.ĒThey say Easter was originally a pagan festival so the word is tainted.The alternative these friends recommend is Resurrection Sunday. I have no problem with calling Easter Resurrection Sunday. That is what it is.

††††††††† However, at my age I am reluctant to start a project that will take 500 years to complete. In fact it might take a thousand years to erase the word Easter from our vocabulary. And the dictionary would have to be rewritten as well for in mine Easter is defined as ďa festival in the Christian Church commemorating the Resurrection of Christ.Ē The pagan origin of Easter is not mentioned. So letís just stay with Easter.

††††††††† The very thought of Easter excites me. I feel like shouting Glory Hallelujah! I have loved Easter since my parents first took me to a sunrise service at Crampton Bowl in Montgomery. As a preacher I love Easter Sunday because the church is usually filled and running over. Chairs in the aisle. People sitting outside because all seats are taken. Glory!

††††††††† The cynic will flag me down. "Hold on there, preacher; why get so excited? Easter is nothing more than another day on the calendar." I understand his skepticism. I know that for many people the Christian celebration of Easter holds little fascination. Easterís primary allurement for many is financial. It is a good time to make a buck selling shoes, clothes, bunnies, and lilies.Even believers embrace Easterís materialism by buying "Easter shoes" and "Easter clothes."

††††††††† Still I admit my enthusiasm for the day. Across the world churches will be bulging with people. More people will attend church today than any other Sunday of the year.

††††††††† Some preachers are tempted to say "Merry Christmas" on Easter to those who will not be back until next Easter. They should refrain from making such a wisecrack. Nothing is gained by embarrassing people. Best we let the Easter crowd know that we are glad to see them anytime since church attendance is voluntary. And we should do our best to preach so they will want to come back next Sunday!

††††††††† Why do more people go to church on Easter Sunday than any other Sunday? I think we all know why. Easter is about resurrection and people are intrigued by the possibility of an afterlife. People want to believe that there is life after death, and that it is possible to go to heaven and escape hell. Within every person there is an innate yearning to live on beyond the grave. No doubt the Creator put that longing in the human spirit.

††††††††† Most of us are not comfortable with the idea that physical death is the end. We long to believe there is a better plan for life than simply to "eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow you may die." Even in the darkest of earthís nights, we hold tightly to the belief that there has got to be another morning. The Word tells us that Godís people are people of the dawn. We are not people of the night, which death represents; we are people of the day. As the poet has expressed it, God has turned all our sunsets into dawns.

††††††††† Here is beautiful symbolism.As the sun sets and night comes on, we become weary. We lie down at night in exhaustion, sometimes overcome with despair. We try to give up our management of the world and surrender to rest. Fear drapes its cloak over us and we close our blinds to hide in the safety of our homes.

††††††††† Then comes the dawn! The sun rises gently and warmly. We are rested and refreshed with new strength. We arise to greet the dawn. Godís unmerited gift to us is the sunshine of a new day filled with opportunities for life, joy, and freedom. We are alive with new energy and excitement. Our fear subsides as we welcome the morning! Few things in the human experience compare to this feeling.

††††††††† People come to Easter worship because they like being called morning people. They may not be ready to embrace "the church" but they do want to hear the good news about "the Christ" who was raised from the dead. They may never admit it but inside they want to believe that the resurrection story is true. Some will continue nursing the hope that one day they too can put their doubts aside and believe.

††††††††† If it is true that Jesus kicked out the end of that tomb and returned from the dead, there is a chance for the rest of us to make it to the other side. If Jesus conquered death, there is a chance he can help us overcome our dread of death.

††††††††† If God really did raise Jesus from the dead, there is a chance I can go to heaven and see my mother again, or my daddy, my son, my daughter, and my friends. Easter Sunday renews our hope of heaven. Deep within us there is this longing for something more after this body begins decaying in a dark, lonesome grave.

††††††††† What powerful symbolism there is in the way the church celebrates Easter. We begin the day with sunrise services because Easter is the day we celebrate the rising of the Son! Caught in the dreadful clutch of dark nightís death, He was alive when morning came! So Christians are people of the dawn!

††††††††† As people crowd into our churches on this glad morning, it will be the preacherís great privilege to help them "hear the brush of Angelesís wings" and catch a glimpse of the Lord of the Morning, the Christ who is alive forevermore! Hallelujah! He is Risen! + + + +