Easter vs. Resurrection Sunday
Regardless of which stance you take on calling the day we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus “Easter” or not, there are strong opinions and reasons for each side. On the one hand, the term “Easter” is linked to some pagan rituals. On the other hand, the word “Easter” has become so closely related with the Resurrection of Jesus and easily recognizable among Christians, the de-churched, and the un-churched that to call the day by any other name might only cause confusion.
Let’s start with the arguments against “Easter.” There are similarities to pagan rites and rituals of Sun worship and the spring equinox. Although it is not entirely certain, there are many that think the origin of the word Easter is derived from Eostre – the pagan Anglo-Saxon goddess of the dawn. Another theory is that the mistranslation of the word Alba (corresponding to the color of the robes worn during the resurrection festival) into German Ostern, which also means sunrise, is the origin of Easter. Considering all of this, it is easy to see why people would look for another term.
Enter “Resurrection Sunday”. Proponents of renaming Easter to Resurrection Sunday quote the history and ties to the pagan rites and rituals, and rightly so. However, albeit very descriptive and theologically accurate, the term “Resurrection Sunday” is often confusing to non-believers. It’s almost as if we’ve given away the punch line before setting up the joke. I have been involved with local churches that went the “Resurrection Sunday” route only to be met with confused looks from the congregation and local community. As the old saying goes, “if it’s a mist in the pulpit, it’s a fog in the pew.”
So, what to do? Is Easter by any other name just as powerful? Do we hold on tight to a term that is possibly connected to pagan worship or do we confuse those that Jesus has called us to reach? How do we bring the power of the Gospel to those that need to hear it with clarity and conviction without confusing the main point of celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ?
Here lies the crossroads that each of us need to wrestle with. In other words, what is the point? I’ll admit that I see the issue from both sides. But the answer lies in what we are trying to accomplish and what our particular culture will see, hear, and understand. For example, if “Easter” seen as a highly religious term in your local culture that has lost all meaning and value, most closely associated with candy and bunnies, then “Resurrection Sunday” would give a fresh perspective to our celebrate and draw those in far from God. However, if “Resurrection Sunday” would only cause a stumbling block and obstacle to those used to the term “Easter”, then stick with “Easter” by all means.
Whatever terms we use to represent the resurrection of Jesus Christ, let us use those that speak to our culture and make straight the way for the Lord (John 1:23) to remove obstacles so that people can meet Jesus Christ.