That Easter dinner folks look forward to each year - it won't be quite the same this year. Social distancing and being home sort of change things.
If you want Easter flowers for the ladies, you'll have to pick them. Much is closed. I'm not even sure the Easter Bunny's going to make it this year. Lots of travel restrictions this time. The fact is the "coronaquake" has shaken and reshaped just about every area of our lives.
Oh, and this is the Sunday that more folks go to church than any other day of the year! Not this year. Churches will be empty as folks sit at home watching online as their pastor preaches from home or to empty pews. And so much for the "Easter parade" of springtime fashion. They're doing church in their jammies this year. PJ praise, I call it.
It's definitely a different kind of Easter. Thanks to what the President has called this "invisible enemy." The now notorious coronavirus. Whose extremely contagious nature gives new meaning to words like "virulent" and "going viral." Apparently, our best hope of beating this enemy is to stay home and wash our hands. I sure am.
As disconcerting as it will be for millions of people to not be in church on Easter Sunday, there may be at least one bright spot in Easter being "different" this time.
To see that bright spot, you have to let your heart travel back some 2,000 years. To a grave. With nobody in it. Oh, there was. Just yesterday. But today the man who was buried there is suddenly gone. The massive stone that had "permanently" sealed the tomb has been rolled aside like a paperweight. The graveclothes the body had been tightly wrapped in are still there. But the man is gone.
When three friends arrive at sunrise to pay their respects, the man they saw die a brutal death on a cross three days before is nowhere to be seen. But there are angels. Who ask a jarring question - "Why do you seek the living among the dead?" Then the announcement that would ultimately rock the city...rock an empire...rock the world.
"He is not here. He is risen."
It's too much for Mary Magdalene to comprehend. You'll find her in the cemetery, re-grieving over the double loss of the One whose power had set her free from a deadly spiritual darkness. First, she saw Him dying an excruciating death, nailed to a Roman cross. And now, someone has apparently stolen His body. She weeps inconsolably. Crushed.
Suddenly, there's someone else there. Asking, "Why are you crying?" "They have taken my Lord away," Mary answers, finding words for her grief. Then what was for her - and is for me - one of the most moving moments of all. Just one word.
She knows that voice. She will be the first person in the world to see the greatest miracle there will ever be.
Jesus. Alive. Risen from the dead.
Jesus has conquered what has conquered every man or woman who ever lived. He has literally conquered death!
And in that holy moment in that graveyard garden, Mary is one-on-one with the only Son of God. Crucified and now risen from the dead. Alive forever.
It is that kind of holy moment that changed my life forever. In essence, the day Jesus called my name. The day I realized that the awful sacrifice of His life on that cross wasn't just history or religion. It was personal. Deeply personal. In the words of the Bible, "He loved me and gave Himself for me" (Galatians 2:20). For me. For every selfish thing, every angry thing, every dirty thing, every hurtful thing I've ever said or done.
It was like Mary. Just Jesus and me. Oh, there were other people around. But it was profoundly personal. Jesus calling a messed-up guy He loved enough to die for. But a dead man couldn't forgive my sins...give me hope...give me heaven.
Good Friday was for me - and for a world of people who, like me - hijacked their life from their Creator. And Easter was for me. That life-changing, eternity-changing victory won there by the One who says: "Don't be afraid!...I am the living one. I died, but look - I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave" (Revelation 1:17-18). A dead man couldn't forgive my sin...give me hope...give me heaven. But Jesus can. He proved it when He blew the doors off His grave!
So while there's something supernaturally special about being in church on Easter Sunday, maybe Jesus wants to use this Easter without the gathering to give someone their "Mary" moment. To come to them one-on-one. Not as "church" or "religion." But just Jesus. And you. Offering to be your personal Savior from your personal sin. Your living Savior, guaranteeing you a heaven you could never earn. That only He can give.
Maybe this is the Easter when He calls your name. And you give yourself to this One who gave everything for you.
It will, indeed, be a different kind of Easter. A different kind of you.
A different forever.