OceanSide church of Christ
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Victor M. Eskew
It comes as a shock to many that we in the churches of Christ do not celebrate Easter Sunday. This fact makes us seem strange to many. It causes them to think that we are something other than Christian. For them, this Sunday is one of the most important on the calendar. People will come out in groves to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
Let us first establish why we do not celebrate “Easter” Sunday. The New Testament teaches that everything that we do is to be done “in the name of,” or, “by the authority of” Jesus Christ. “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, to all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him” (Col. 3:17). Not one verse in the New Testament exhorts us to celebrate a particular Sunday as “the” resurrection Sunday. Not one time do we ever read of the church of the first century holding “Easter Services.” Since we desire to pattern ourselves after the New Testament church, we do not hold Easter Services either.
It is true that Jesus was raised from the dead on the first day of the week. One of this writer’s favorite texts is Mark 16:2-6. “And very early in the morning, the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun…And entering in to the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted. And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him.” It is this day, the first day of the week, that has been authorized for Christian worship (Acts 20:7; I Cor. 16:1-2; Rev. 1:10). Therefore, members of the church of Christ celebrate the resurrection of our Lord every first day of the week. It not a “one-day-of-the-year affair” for us. We remember our Lord’s victory over the grave fifty-two times a year.
Because members of the Lord’s church do not celebrate Easter, we are often unfamiliar with some of the terminology that is used by our denominational friends when they discuss this event. In the remainder of this article, we want to set before you a few of the words that are used during this time of year as well as their definitions.
Easter: The name given to the most important religious feast in the “Christian” liturgical year….The term developed from the Old English word Eustre (or Easte), which refers to the goddess of Anglo-Saxon paganism, originally of the dawn. In pagan times an annual spring festival was held in her honor.
Lent: The 40-day long liturgical season of prayer and fasting before Easter which represents the 40 days Jesus fasted in the wilderness. In Western “Christianity,” Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday…The purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer through penitence, prayer, self-denial, and almsgiving.
Ash Wednesday: The first day of Lent, which occurs 40 days before Easter. Ash Wednesday is so-named from the practice undertaken by “Christians” to show repentance of their sins. They kneel before a priest who makes the sign of the cross in ashes upon their foreheads. As he does this, he recites the words: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
Holy Week: The week before Easter and the last week of Lent. During Holy Week the events of the last week of Jesus’ earthly life are remembered.
Palm Sunday: The name given to the Sunday before Easter, which commemorates the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem on a donkey in the days before His passion.
Good Friday: The name given to the Friday before Easter, which commemorates the cruci-fixion of Jesus Christ and his death at Golgotha. It is termed “good” because without it there could have been no resurrection.
Easter Vigil: The first official celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus. The worship service is held in the hours of the darkness between sunset on Holy Saturday and sunrise of Easter Sunday. This is celebrated by the Catholic Church.
Sunrise Service: A worship services on Easter practiced by some Protestant churches, replacing the traditional, ancient Easter Vigil. The service is held early in the morning and is timed so the attendants can see the sun rise during the service. The event commemorates the time of the day that Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week.
Eastertide: Also known as Easter Season or Paschal Time. The name was given to the 50 days from Easter Sunday to Whitsunday (Pentecost)….Eastertide is important in the “Christian” calendar as it celebrates the risen Christ with his teachings and appearances, as well as the beginnings of the “Christian” church.
These are some of the main terms that are used by our religious friends during this time of year. There are other terms that are used such as Maundy Thursday, but these are not as common. In order to speak to our friends about spiritual things, we must have a working knowledge of what they believe. Too, we never want to misrepresent anything they believe and teach. Thus, we must spend some time learning about the things they believe. It is interesting that not one of these terms is found in the New Testament of Jesus Christ. This might be something that we could point out to those who use these words. Every one of these beliefs and practices are of man-made origin. There is nothing divine about them (See Matthew 15:7-9).