A regular article written by Phillip Jensen in his role as Dean of Sydney at St Andrew's Cathedral.
25th March 2008
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I hope that what I write here will not diminish this genuine wish for you all.
“Happy” is a funny word for an Easter greeting. It does not seem right to wish people a Happy Good Friday and it does not seem adequate to wish people a Happy Easter on Easter Day.
Most of our society wishes each other Happy Easter on Thursday. For them Easter is the four day holiday weekend. It is the time to get away for a short break, see the family, relax and enjoy life. So “happy” is just the right greeting (or farewell) to give people about to take a pleasure break.
But for Christians “happiness” is not the ultimate goal in life. Happiness is for us a by-product of right living. It is as we live God's way that the happiness of life comes upon us. While people who pursue happiness are always in pursuit. They do not find happiness and it does not find them.
So should Christians be wishing each other “Happy Easter” or “Happy Good Friday”?
Many of our greetings are not meant literally. When we ask: “How are you?” we do not really want the other person to reply in any anatomical detail. That kind of 'organ recital' is unbearably boring. When we wish people “good morning” some people think that we are describing the morning rather than wishing them a good morning. They rudely reply that it is a dreadful morning, missing the point of our greeting altogether. When we say good-bye most people have no idea we are wishing “God be with you”. In fact most of us do not realise that is what the word meant either. I doubt it when taxi drivers say to me “see you later”—for the chance of me seeing them later is very slim.
Therefore, it does not matter much when we wish each other “happy” anything—for greetings are fairly meaningless. They are social contact noises. They are attempts to be polite and friendly. Greetings and farewells are things to ever analyse or criticise.
But just for the record some Christians do mean what their greetings say. And if that is the case then what do we want to say to each other about Good Friday and Easter Day?
Some wish each other “A Holy Easter”. It is not exactly what the Bible means by holiness but it is a reasonable attempt to say something more Christian than happiness.
But as happiness is a by-product of right living—it is suitable to wish people happiness in their Easter celebrations. For Good Friday is not just the best Friday of the year, it is the best day of the year. It is the day when we remember the forgiveness of our sins, won for us by Jesus' death on the cross. If ever there is a day to rejoice and be happy—that is the day. It is why we call it “Good” and not “Black Friday” of “Bad Friday”. And few things could make somebody happier than knowing their sins are forgiven.
Likewise Easter is the day when we remember our rebirth through the resurrection of our Lord and Saviour. It commences the Kingdom of God and our entry into it. How could we not be happy on such an occasion!
So it is not the utilitarian pursuit of hedonism that we are wishing you. Rather it is the true happiness of knowing sins forgiven and new birth into the family of God that we are wishing you when we say: “Happy Easter.”