After the 9.30 service this morning, I got talking to a parent of one of our Sunday Club children. I asked what plans they had for the Easter holidays. She replied that she didn’t feel right calling it the Easter holidays because Easter was last week, and the kids have been in school this week.
So I felt I had to remind her that Easter isn’t just one day, but it’s a season. We have 50 days of celebration, 50 days of celebrating Easter, 50 days between Easter and Pentecost.
And I think we need this time. This time is important. Because, the mystery of the empty tomb, the victory over death, sin and destruction, the overwhelming joy of the disciples, the boundless love of God, and our salvation through Christ, deserves more than just one day of celebration.
However, among all this Easter celebration, tonight’s readings, remind us of the wider story, from our first knowledge of sin, to our adoption as children and heirs of God’s kingdom through Jesus.
Tonight is also an anticipation of the feast of the annunciation, and I would feel remiss if I ignored it. Because, as our Genesis reading reminds us of our beginnings, the annunciation takes us back to Christ’s.
From the end, to the beginning.
The Annunciation is traditionally celebrated on the 25th March, except for when that date falls in Holy Week or Easter Week, then it is deferred.
Which is exactly what has happened this year, because otherwise it would have fallen on Good Friday, which we can all agree would have been just wrong.
The contrast between the joy of the angel’s message, and the sorrow of Holy Week seem to be worlds apart, but there is a common thread that runs through the annunciation, Holy Week AND Easter.
Without the Annunciation, without God embodied in human flesh and living our lives among us, the events of Holy Week and Easter are meaningless. Without Christ’s incarnation, the cross has no power.
The same is true if it were the other way round, the annunciation and incarnation, without Good Friday and Easter makes Jesus just another good, wise and holy man, because death would still reign.
These two events need each other, they are part of the same story, the same plan. In the annunciation, the womb creates and brings birth to life, at the resurrection the tomb recreates and brings rebirth. Beginnings and ends, God’s presence, power, and love; revealed, and visible, for all who wish to see.
And through them, the thread of our own lives has been changed forever.
This extended time of celebration helps us to further recall and reflect upon the turbulence of those few days through Holy Week to last Sunday.
And should help us to assess the implications of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus in our own lives. Individually and collectively.
In our early days, we sinned. We moved away from the will of God, but through Christ, our sin has been taken away, and we should now be able to move closer to the values of God’s Kingdom.
We all know though, that this is not always an easy task. Even for the most pious among us. We live in a world where human value is constantly being judged against the measures of productivity, financial worth, and personal ambition.
You only have to glance at the news to see the extent of global injustice, of wars being fought over greed, and where people’s lives are risked because of our selfish want or because ‘it’s just not financially viable to help’.
And to speak out, against these things that diminish the will of God, can be difficult. It seems like a lot of the time the world doesn’t care for our calling to be to be fair, caring, loving, generous, humble, inclusive, and at service for each other.
Speaking out against injustice has always required a certain amount of courage but it’s something that St Paul gives an example of.
Paul wrote to the Galatians because he feared that the new Christian community there was losing its way. There were confusions over the importance of the Jewish law and people pushing their own agendas.
What did the gentiles joining the church need to do to share in Christ’s victory?
Paul saw the possible danger for the new believers. But as Paul says earlier in his letter to them, ‘There is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female.’
Barriers had been broken down and divisions cast aside.
So if adherence to the laws of the Jews was a necessary condition for belief as some were preaching, then Christ’s death was in vain.
Paul argues that we are no longer slaves to the law because of the power of Christ. We are released and there is no turning back to the old ways.
But we have become Children of God and a new way of living has been reviled to us through the resurrection of Christ.
‘And because we are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God’.
So where do we go from here?
Our Easter celebrations take us from our earliest beginnings, through to where we sit today.
And we have 43 days left of celebration. 43 days of reflection on the events from our first encounters with sin, to the annunciation through to Easter, 43 days of working out how being Children of God translates to our lives as individuals and as the church.
You are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir. Thanks be to God. Amen.