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Easter: This year more than ever

One of my favorite Christmas songs is “We Need a Little Christmas” from the Broadway musical Mame. As the great Christian celebration of Easter comes this Sunday, I might suggest that we need a lot of Easter this year.

Easter Sunday is the most important day in the Christian year. It commemorates the day when Jesus, the cornerstone of our faith, defeated the lowest common denominator of enemies, death. The most prolific New Testament author, Paul, shouts in 1st Corinthians, “Where, O death is your victory? Where, O death is your sting?”

On that first day of the week, long ago, before any of the followers of Jesus had awakened for their day, the Rock of all ages had risen from that tomb that was never going to hold Him. What happened on that day, then, might matter more this year than in other years.

Easter will be different this year as we are sheltered in our places. It’s ironic. On the Sunday when more people attend church than any other, our churches will be closed. But just as Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb could not hold the Son of God, a virus that has closed the doors of our churches cannot hold our hearts hostage and away from the wonderful news that “He Lives!”

The Easter spirit that was born on that Day of Resurrection cannot be stopped by an earthly virus. I predict that, this year, more people will be watching Easter services on television, Facebook, or websites than would have been attending churches in person. There’s more than one way to skin a cat!

Will we miss the fellowship of others? Of course, but the devil could not “keep a good man down” and our adversary will fail to keep Christians from worshipping our beloved Savior. We have the opportunity to celebrate victory and hope as never before. “Easter people, raise your voices!”

As the late Paul Harvey might have said, “You know the song, but here’s the rest of the story.”

In 1932, Presbyterian pastor Alfred Ackley awoke early and was preparing his Easter morning message. He happened to have his radio tuned to a famous, liberal New York preacher who said, “Good morning. It’s Easter! You know, folks, it really doesn’t make any difference to me if Christ be risen or not. As far as I’m concerned his body could be as dust in some Palestinian tomb. The main thing is, His truth goes marching on.”

Alfred Ackley was so angry when he heard that, he threw his radio across the room and yelled, “It’s a lie!” He went on to his church and preached with strength and urgency about the reality of Christ’s resurrection.

Later that night, he was still bothered by what the radio preacher had said that morning. His wife saw his frustration and encouraged him to do what he did best, write a song. Then he would feel better.

Ackley re-read the Gospel of Mark’s account of the resurrection and the words began to come by God’s Spirit. It wasn’t long before Alfred Ackley had written what may be the song that will be sung this Sunday more than any other. It begins, “I serve a risen Savior” and the chorus includes the words and the title, “He Lives!”

Yes, this Easter Sunday will be different. We may not be dressed up as we used to. There won’t be large family gatherings with delicious lunches and afternoon egg hunts. For the first time in, maybe our lifetimes, the sounds of our church choirs may be silent.

But take this to the bank. Within our hearts will be the Living Lord and a virus can do nothing about that. And all the church said, “Amen!”