A regular article written by Phillip Jensen in his role as Dean of Sydney at St Andrew's Cathedral.
17th March 2006
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The Easter season will soon be upon us.
This year we again aim to celebrate Good Friday with the Lord’s Supper in the morning, the Cathedral Convention in the afternoon, and “Messiah” at night.
On Easter Day we will commence with an early morning celebration of the Lord’s Supper followed by a time of public Praise and Proclamation of the Risen Lord Jesus.
The annual Good Friday Cathedral Convention is this year entitled “The Future of Jesus”. This is the same title as last year’s Boyer Lectures, but the Archbishop’s address will be quite different. The success of the Cathedral Convention over the last couple of years has lead to a similar event being conducted this year at the provisional Cathedral of St Michael’s Wollongong.
It is a great privilege to have a public holiday on Good Friday. It provides us with a marvellous opportunity to spend the day, seriously contemplating our Saviour’s great sacrifice for us. It is important that Christians take hold of this opportunity and not follow the wide path of our non-Christian community that sees all holidays from the standpoint of hedonism.
Secularists always turn to materialism and mythology as the alternatives to history, truth and meaningful living. So commercial interests have steadily distorted Christmas, replacing truth with mythology and generosity with greed. Santa, reindeers, presents and retail sales have replaced the birth of the man who was God. Similarly Easter is being deconstructed. Again the truth is being replaced by mythology and God’s generosity being replaced by greed. The “Easter bunny” and chocolates are becoming more the symbols of Easter than the cross and empty tomb.
There is nothing wrong with presents or with chocolate. There is everything right with enjoyment and the fun of parties. It is certainly a good thing to catch up with family and old friends. But we Christians have much more than these wonderful things. We know the Lord who was born, lived and died for us. We know him who has risen from the dead and now rules the world. We know him who loved us so much as to die for us, and who rules us so lovingly as to care for our every need.
Times change and different celebrations lose something of their meaning in the community. You may well disagree with my assessment, but it seems to me that the Queen’s Birthday in June and Labour Day in October are celebrated more as long weekends than for the Queen or the labour movement.
Some time ago the Government saw that the celebration of Australia Day was losing it’s meaning by becoming simply a long weekend. They successfully fixed the holiday onto the 26th of January and created many specific national celebrations to refocus the community mind onto the reason for the holiday.
For many years Anzac Day saw a declining interest in the community’s attendance at marches and commemorations. It was as if the community no longer cared that people laid down their lives for our freedoms. Of recent years, without the Government intervention involved in Australia Day’s revival, the community has started to show more interest in Anzac Day. Record crowds have started to turn out again to recognize the sacrifice of our armed services.
Easter, and especially Good Friday, is a Christian holiday. We cannot ask of the secular government to do anything more than declare it a public holiday. But we Christians must do more if we wish to make it a Christian celebration. It is the time when we leave aside our work, our chores, our sport and pleasures, our friends and family - to gather as Christians and remember again our Lord’s death and resurrection as we await his return.
It is also the time when we invite others who do not yet know him to find more in life than myth and materialism. To find Jesus - the one who loved us so much as to take our condemnation and death upon himself in order to save us. To find Jesus - the one who has risen from the grave to sit at the right hand of his Father in all power and authority. To find the true and living God who rules the world.