In your Easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it You’ll be the grandest lady in the Easter parade.
– Irving Berlin, 1933
Although the Easter bonnet has gone out of fashion, the custom of wearing new clothes on Easter is still going strong.
Retailers experience a bonanza in the run-up to Easter. The National Retail Federation predicts that each person celebrating the holiday will spend a whopping $145.28 in 2012. That’s up 10.9 percent from 2011 and nearly 25 percnet higher than the depths of the recession in 2009.
While the lion’s share of Easter spending will go for candy and food, the NRF’s survey revealed that fully one-half those polled say they are taking advantage of the Easter sales to buy new spring clothing.
Some of my earliest memories of this Christian holiday involved the clothes. Although my family was of modest means, everything I wore on Easter was brand spanking new from head to toe. My mom made sure of it.
The Easter dress couldn’t be just any old dress. It had to be something special with extra frills, lace and ruffles. One dress I remember, in particular, had a matching parasol. There was no Easter parade in my little town, no formal judging, but there was an unofficial competition among the mothers to have the best-dressed daughter in church that morning.
In fact, I am ashamed to admit that, back then, for most of us, Easter Sunday was more about how one looked on the outside, then what was going on inside. It still is. Today, in the run-up to Easter, most of us spend a lot more time on the physical preparation than we do on the spiritual.
Ever wonder how God feels when He sees all those people, in their new finery, in church on Easter Sunday whose primary purpose is to see and be seen? We don’t have to wonder. In Matthew 23, Jesus chastised the scribes and Pharisees for much the same thing. He called them “hypocrites” and said they were “like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.”
Holidays are an important time for families, and traditions are important. Nothing wrong with that. However, the purpose of observing this holiday is to remember the sacrifice Jesus made in order to give us the greatest gift anyone could possibly imagine.
Our God is a holy God. Sin separates us from God (Romans 6:23). There are none who are righteous enough to enter into His presence on their own (Romans 3:23). Therefore, Jesus, who knew no sin, became the sacrificial Passover lamb, paying the ultimate price for our sins so that we might live forever with Him. Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we can stand before God without spot or blemish. That is what is symbolized by the wearing of new clothes.
However, that is not the end of it. To accept this gift, we must die to ourselves and allow Jesus to live through us (some people try to do the former without the latter). That means giving up our own desires in order to exchange them for His. That can be a scary thought. That is why many people hold back. “What if God steps on my plans? Is He going to spoil all my fun? What if He asks for something I’m not willing to give?”
Many go to church, read the Bible and, like those scribes and Pharisees, hold to a form of godliness and expect that to do it. Do you “outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness”? I know what it’s like to hold back. I was in that place for far too long.
Jesus said, “I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly,” John 10:10. He also said, “My yoke is easy. My burden is light,” Matthew 11:30. Somehow I had missed those points.
This year, in your Easter preparation, take time to do the work that is truly important, the work that begins within. Then, and only then, will you understand what it is like to truly experience a joyous Easter and the abundant life.