Why Don’t Adventists Like Easter?

It’s Easter Sunday.  As I sit down at the computer I see posts from many of my Sunday worshipping friends celebrating Easter.  Some have been up for hours attending sunrise services on a very special weekend for Christians.  When I’m done writing I’ll slip into my work clothes and get cracking on my to-do list like any other Sunday.  I’m sure at some point I’ll need a part or tool and be completely put out that everything is closed.  This will be the norm for pretty much all of my Adventist friends today.  Sure they may use it as an excuse to have brunch with family followed by an Easter Egg hunt, but really nothing deserving of a day like Easter; the climax to the story of salvation and the only reason Christianity exists in the first place.

It really came as no surprise to me yesterday when a student in my youth group asked “Why isn’t Easter a bigger deal for us (Adventists)?”  I had encouraged the students to spent some time in quiet contemplation.  The lights were low in the room which I had filled with incense and soft music.  As they sat at the tables I read through the prophecy of Isaiah regarding the crucifixion, then concluded with chapter 81 of The Desire of Ages.  Despite different methods each year my talk is always the same, without Easter none of this matters.  Then came the question.  The student is one who is very involved in the programs of our church; participating in performances ranging from Celtic programs on St. Patrick’s Day to what seems like an endless barrage of Christmas events.  So the fact that Easter would come and go with little to no pomp was not lost to her.  She continued “Most of us go to an Adventist school where they make a big deal about remembering the real reason for Christmas.  But we had Good Friday off and it’s Easter weekend, yet no one even said anything this week.  Almost like they didn’t care.”

That realization was one that I came to many years ago as I struggled to make sense of a faith that had become more habit than life changing.  I sought to make sense not just of my Adventist beliefs, but also faith and religion in general.  As I came to understand and embrace my faith, I discovered a new significance to my worship.  I recognized the importance of certain elements spread amongst the varying Hebrew and Christian traditions as pieces of a greater puzzle that led to a deeper relationship with God.  And Easter was the most important piece.

Turning back to not only my denomination, but also my specific church I wondered how the majesty of Easter weekend seems so lost.  The answer was simpler than I thought.  Easter comes from a Sunday keeping, Catholic, liturgical tradition.  Everything that Adventism sought not to be when it was founded.   And in it’s quest to separate itself from the Catholic church as well as other protestant denominations who kept the Sunday statute for worship, Adventism also gave up deeply symbolic and highly important elements of faith that helped us to remember and reflect more intimately on our God and savior.  Adventism sought to emphasize other elements which other denominations had seemingly passed on; living modest and humble lives of service, proclaiming and preparing for the second coming, and worship on the seventh day.

But what early Adventists failed to see in setting those other traditions aside was the greater purpose in their connection to God.  The fourth commandment which is the hallmark of Adventism, starts with a key word to our relationship with God “Remember”.  The rainbow in the sky, Sabbath, and Passover were all set by God to help us remember what He has done in His great quest to reconcile his lost children to Him.  And Easter with all of it’s pagan, Catholic, and Sunday keeping intonations is the greatest remembrance in history.  Our churches have communion tables with the statement “Do Ye In Remembrance of Me” for that purpose.  REMEMBER!

I see in a new generation the longing to remember in a way previous generations of Adventists did not.  They skip out on communion and foot washing not because they feel it’s unimportant, but because they feel it’s more important than the once a quarter habit it’s become.  It’s more significant than a checkmark they need to make sure that they are maintaining their faith appropriately.  It is a deeply meaningful remembrance of their love for their God.  Mixed in with the Facebook updates and selfies is a longing for significance and authenticity.  And as the next generations seeks that authentic worship, they will see the significance in ignored traditions.  I see students who embrace celebrating Lent and Passover. I see individuals who relish in the opportunity to bring passion plays to the campuses of Andrews University and Southern Adventist University.   And I see more and more young Adventists longing to embrace Easter for what it is; the single most life-altering event in the history of the universe.

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