These two seasons present us with significant opportunities to share our faith, says Tim Farron MP
The key question this week is: have you put up your Easter tree yet?
No, me neither, but according to Sainsburys, searches for Easter trees on their website has gone up by 977% on last year, and searches for Easter tree decorations have gone up by 948%.
Now the cynic in me says that a 977% increase on a very small number still isn’t all that huge…but, from a somewhat higher base I suspect, Marks and Spencer say that demand for Easter eggs has risen 86% and that sales on its wider range of Easter products has shot up by 3000%.
So after the disappointment at Christmas when family get togethers were cancelled at almost the last minute, has Easter become the new Christmas?
From this week, people can spend time in groups of up to six people outside and so some of those postponed family events can now take place on that lovely new garden furniture that you’ve bought – and according to Asda there’s been a 400% increase on sales of such items.
And that… is enough statistics.
In this country, in normal times, Easter isn’t anything like as big a deal as Christmas. In part, I suspect that’s because the Easter story is a lot harder to sanitise than Christmas is.
Of course, Christmas is all fairy lights, Father Christmas, schmaltz and commercialism but the nativity does get a look in. Babies and angels and guiding stars are a fairly cost free concession to Christianity on the part of the world.
But Easter focuses on eggs and bunnies and the arrival of spring. This is because, and let’s be blunt, the grisly crucifixion of a man can’t be turned into a cute window display. It is ugly and threatening.
But the Easter message is the Christmas message. Dying on that cross was the very reason that baby was born. That baby was born to die for us because we need a Saviour. The fact that Jesus was to die, is why the angels celebrated, why his mother conceived, why wise men travelled vast distances to honour him.
We brace ourselves here in the Lake District for the arrival of thousands of visitors this Easter weekend because people are eager to get out and to travel, but I think they are even more hungry for social interaction and for something to celebrate – and Easter gives them that opportunity.
In my experience as a Christian with a modest public profile, Easter and Christmas are the two times of year when the media will tolerate you saying something vaguely religious.
Easter and Christmas are the two times of year when the media will tolerate you saying something vaguely religious.
And the pandemic is the event that has also prompted many to ask the big questions – what’s life all about, why are we here, am I answerable to anyone except me?
So I hope and I pray that Easter will be a much bigger deal this year and that through the get togethers of friends and family and the slightly contrived festivities, there will be real opportunities for the gospel to be shared – in person and through every form of media. After all, Easter is a series of events documented in history. If they are true, and I believe that they absolutely are, then everything changes. If Easter really happened, then there is a God… and we know his name.
The Church has done much this year to serve our communities and to bring people together. Let’s pray that this year’s bigger emphasis on Easter might lead to a seeking of understanding by some as to what it’s all about.