by Ralen M. Robinson

“But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb.” (John 20:11)

Easter lilies adorn the sanctuary, the paraments are white, the eggs are dyed and hidden, and the baskets are ready. At Easter, we celebrate the resurrection of Christ. But this year, it looks different, and celebrations dimmed.

In the past year, we have had events canceled. People said, “This is going to look different,” and we have heard this saying time and again. We have lived this saying. We have changed the way we have been living for over a year. We have shuffled our calendars, pushed back celebrations, postponed trips, and even canceled holidays. We have celebrated through a screen, greeted with joy through a window, and cried over the phone. All that was to protect our siblings in Christ during this pandemic.

We have altered our lives while repeating this saying, “This will look different,” so often that we’ve ingrained it in our being. Life is different, and the events and celebrations are not the same. The milestones and holidays are unfamiliar to what we knew and held dear. It is true for Easter and the celebration of the resurrection of Christ.

This year Easter looks different. We celebrate it through a screen or physically distanced seating on pews. The words we rejoice in, Jesus Christ is Risen! are muffled through a mask. Many congregations canceled Easter egg hunts. The sweet fragrance of the Easter lilies no longer fills our nostrils. And the frilly dresses are still hanging in the department stores.

This year Easter is different, and it is okay to name that, sit with that, and hold that. The festivities are not the same, and the feelings sparked are unfamiliar. The joy of Easter has dimmed, and its celebration seems like a hum, and we lament these feelings. We mourn the loss of the vibrant colors, the fragrance, and the egg hunts.

You are not alone experiencing these feelings. We share them with our friends and family today, but also with biblical people. In the book of Mark we read, “so they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” Like our biblical ancestors, we recognize that the resurrection is full of feelings: gladness, sorrow, grief, and uncertainty.

These feelings are okay. These times of uncertainty and frustration go back to Mary, Peter, and the disciples. For they rejoiced that Jesus rose but were sad and full of sorrow that he was no longer present.

It is okay to be sad today that life’s not back to normal; it’s okay to feel alone and frustrated. For this time will pass. Easter is more than joy, egg hunts, and celebration. It is a time where we grapple with what Jesus endured for us. It’s a time when we sit with that sacrifice and pain because there is gladness through the heartache.

So, as we peer through the screens or sit physically distanced, let’s remember Mary Magdalene’s weeping, Peter’s fear of not knowing what comes next, and every disciple’s uncertainty.

This Easter, the floral dresses may still be on the rack at the department stores, services may be online, egg hunts postponed, and celebrations physically distanced. But this does not take away from the joy that God bestowed upon us for a new tomorrow. It does not eliminate the unyielding love given through the promise Jesus made to his people. As long as we celebrate that promise, this Easter may not be so different after all.

Closing prayer

Holy God, all we pray this day is that you hold and uplift your children who are feeling sad, frustrated, and alone this Easter season. We know that we are never alone but wrapped in your unyielding love and grace that you, God, bestowed upon us when you raised your son from the shackles of death and brought him anew in your kingdom. This year is different, but even in the difference, allow us to see the brightness in the resurrection of your son Jesus Christ and let us know the love in the fulfillment of the promise. For we learn as we celebrate, grieve, and feel indifferent, we are not alone. So, grant us peace, healing, and joy this Easter season.

Discussion questions

1. How are you celebrating Easter this year?

2. Where are you finding joy and sorrow this Easter season?

3. What are you doing to connect with your loved ones on this holiday?

Ralen M. Robinson is associate pastor of Reformation Lutheran Church, Wichita, Ks.