Hope and Renewal

Today is the first day of Spring 2023, and we are now past the midpoint of the 40 days of Lent leading up to Easter Sunday on April 9, 2023. Lent is a time of reflection, repentance, and fasting; and “the first day of spring is often associated with the renewal of nature, as the winter frost melts away and new life begins to sprout. Similarly, Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which is a symbol of new life and spiritual rebirth” (quote source here).

Easter Sunday is the day Christians around the world celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and without the Resurrection, there would be no Christianity. As stated in an article published on March 19, 2021, titled What is the Proof and Evidence of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ?” by Justin Holcomb, Ph.D., Episcopal priest, professor, and author, he states the following in his opening paragraph in his article:

Of all the teachings of Christianity, no doctrine is more central than the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The truth of the resurrection has been attacked from every angle. New books and television media regularly appear questioning the resurrection, re-hashing old theories about what happened to Jesus’ body. Since the resurrection is crucial to Christianity, Christians ought to be able to give answers to these inevitable questions with proof and evidence. (Quote source and his complete article are at this link.)

In an article published on April 17, 2017, titled, Why is the Resurrection So Important?” by David Turner, Ph.D., Emeritus Professor of New Testament at Cornerstone University, he states:

The resurrection of Jesus is at the heart of the Christian message. How unfortunate that church services may stress the empty tomb only on Easter Sunday, or even just through the Eastertide season. Another concern is the common way Christians summarize the gospel by mentioning only Jesus’ death. Without the resurrection, Jesus’ ministry ends in defeat and disillusionment (Luke 24:21). But everything changes if “He is not here! He has risen from the dead, just as he said” (Matthew 28:6).

The resurrection culminates the passion narrative in all four Gospels because it is at the center of redemption itself. Without it, one can only pity Jesus as a dead martyr whose lofty ideals were sadly misunderstood. With it, one must stand in awe of the exalted Messiah, the Son of the living God, who gave His life as a ransom for many, who presently reigns at God’s right hand, and who will one day return in glory to fix this broken world.

Paul bluntly stated that apart from the resurrection our faith and message are in vain (1 Corinthians 15:12-19). Thinking about how absolutely bleak and pointless any so-called “Christian” life would be without the resurrection should spur us to ponder it all the more: (click here for quote source and to read his five points concerning the resurrection, and the rest of his article).

In our culture at this time of the year, our stores are filled with Easter bunnies and baskets and candy and decorated Easter eggs, so what does the Easter bunny have to do with Jesus? In an article titled, The Easter Bunny and Jesus,” by David Capps, Ph.D., staff writer at ExploreGod.com, he writes:

Walk into almost any retail store right after Valentine’s Day and you’ll be greeted by a wall of pastel-colored baskets, plastic eggs, jelly beans, and—perhaps most famous of all—chocolate bunnies. You know Easter is coming.

Since the 1840s, the Christian holiday of Easter, which celebrates the resurrection of Jesus, has gained secular acceptance in America. There are parades, parties, and elaborate egg hunts—even the White House gets in on the action with its own annual egg hunt on the lawn.

While Easter traditions vary, one account says that the Easter bunny brings lucky children treats before dawn on Easter morning. So for children in the West—particularly in the United States—the Easter bunny has become one of the most recognized symbols of this Christian holiday.

How did this happen? What in the world does the Easter bunny have to do with Jesus?

Easter is a Christian festival or holy-day that commemorates the resurrection of Jesus on the third day after his crucifixion. Taken together, the crucifixion and resurrection form the central events of the Christian faith. It is not too far-fetched to say that without the resurrection there is no Christianity, so it’s no wonder that Christ-followers began to celebrate the event early on.

As with all things human, there were debates about the best way and the best time to celebrate Easter. Some wanted to continue to associate it with the Jewish Passover on Nisan 14 of the Hebrew calendar. But that date could fall on any day of the week, whereas Jesus’ resurrection took place on Sunday. As such, Western Christians decided to make sure that the holiday occurred on a Sunday.

So church leaders came up with a specific formula: Easter is observed on the first Sunday following the full moon after the vernal equinox—that is, the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere. Consequently, Easter in the West can be as early as March 22 or as late as April 25.

The significance of Easter in the Christian calendar grew with the addition of other days of great importance. Good Friday marks the day Jesus was crucified. Holy Week commemorates the events in Jesus’ life leading up to his crucifixion and resurrection. The season of Lent establishes a forty-day preparation period of prayer, fasting, and reflection prior to the Easter celebration.

Because of Easter, Christians believe that death is not the final word. Ultimately, all who belong to Jesus will one day break the shackles of death and live again in glory.

So if Easter is a celebration of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and its significance, how did the Easter bunny become associated with it? (Click here to find out the answer to that question and to read the rest of the article.)

The resurrection of Jesus Christ provides hope and renewal for all who seek him. In a blog post published on April 22, 2017, titled, Embrace New Life at Easter with a New Mindset (author’s name not mentioned), at Geneva College, the author writes:

Have you ever found yourself wishing you could just start over? Have you wished for a restart button that would let you put aside all of your anxiety, fear, painful memories and concern for the future and start anew? Easter is a great time to reflect on what Jesus did for you on the cross to redeem you. God made a way for you to restart by freeing you of the burdens that weigh you down. This transformation happens by the renewing of your mind (Rom. 12:2).

Easter reminds us that we have a living Savior who can heal your brokenness and despair and replace it with hope. This new life starts with the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus on the first Easter. After embracing that grace, you should allow the Holy Spirit to begin transforming you from the inside– renewing your mind. Here are some strategies you can use for self-reflection and prayer during this Lenten and Easter season that will allow you to move forward with hope, forgiveness and happiness.

Pinpoint the Change Needed

First, figure out what you need to change, specifically. Are you stuck in a fixed mindset or as scripture says “conformed to the pattern of this world?” Psychology Central warns that a fixed mindset seriously limits your growth and focuses on your shortcomings or failure. Think about what you can do to fuel your growth instead. Do you have a negative attitude because you’re feeling lonely? Use your energy to make some friends. Find the source of the problem, the underlying attitude or issue, and start praying that God will guide you to wise counsel and a solution to the problem. Keep an open mind about what the source might be – it is often a “heart problem” rather than a behavior problem or situation.

Learn to Laugh

Sometimes, all it takes to change from a negative mindset to a positive one is a little bit of laughter. Grab your favorite comedy movie, or look up some funny videos on YouTube. Spend some time laughing, and you will see your mindset grow from negative to positive.

Grab a New Perspective

Sometimes we face a problem with a negative mindset because we only think about it one way. Looking at the problem from a new point of view can greatly change our mindset.

For instance, if you are dealing with work and school deadlines that feel impossible to attain, you may be tempted to complain and wish it would all just go away. Instead, view the deadlines as a challenge, and imagine the rewarding feeling of finishing the deadline on time. That simple change in perspective may be all you need to do to get yourself back on track.

Count Your Blessings

Everyone has challenges, but everyone has blessings too. Take time now to count those blessings. Your life is pretty amazing if you are able to find those things to be grateful for. Make a list of those blessings, and you will find yourself in a more positive mindset.

Change Your Way of Talking

Is your speech negative? Is it focused on your failures instead of your accomplishments? Is it filled with “can’ts” rather than on “cans?” Start changing the way you speak and you can be rewarded with greater joy and be an encouragement (salt and light) to others. Speak of hope, certainty and accomplishments rather than fear, worry and failure. To paraphrase the lyrics of the popular song by Christian musician TobyMac, “Speak hope–speak love–speak life!” Your words have a huge impact on your attitude and emotions, so this is a great way to change your mindset as you focus on a new life this Easter.

Easter is the time remember that our God is a God of second chances. Even if things look bleak and you’ve been knocked down, God can renew your hope and transform you through the renewing of your mind. (Quote source here.)

I’ll end this post with the words from 1 Peter 1:3-5 (NIV): Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation…

That is ready . . .

To be revealed . . .

In the last time . . . .

YouTube Video: “Easter Medley : Living Hope/Because He Lives/O Praise the Name/Forever” by The Movement Worship:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here