Easter is almost here. I can see it as much in France as in Australia by the chocolate eggs in the supermarket. Well, not just eggs, but also chocolate bunnies and chocolate fish and chocolate bells. The fish are solid and a reference to the miraculous catch of fish in the Bible, so not particularly Easter-related. The bells are a bit more curious – apparently, the church bells from France fly to Italy to visit the Pope for Easter Friday, the Pope blesses the bells and then they fly on back with the good news of the resurrection on Sunday. Google even has a little story about it.
Apart from this curious tradition, it is interesting seeing what other customs are practised. I know there will be many irregularly practising Catholics who will make the trip to the church on Easter Sunday. But Friday isn’t a public holiday, and most Protestant churches don’t have anything scheduled for this day. Sunday does draw a bigger crowd, and many families will do some sort of Easter egg hunt.
There is a huge chocolate egg hunt organised by a secular charity in Nantes where we live, in a beautiful public park – 1000 places available with an online booking form. Monday is a public holiday, but unlike Christmas, there is less draw to bring in all the family, young and old. Rather, it is more the occasion to have a day off, a bonus day, dedicated to rest rather than worship.
This year in our church plant, we are inviting the Jews for Jesus to take us through a Passover meal and discover how Jesus installed communion during the meal. Traditions can be powerful teachers – helpful to our understanding, anchoring us amid a turbulent world. Tradition can also be paralysing – preventing us from seeing the truth of God’s word and sticking to doing something just because other generations also did it. Chocolate bells at Easter seem to fit into the latter. But as you gather in Australia on your Easter Sunday, so too will believers in France and the world be gathering. To proclaim that Jesus is risen. To celebrate his victory. To be amazed at his grace to us. And this tradition of meeting together is powerful and helpful. We welcome visitors at Easter because we know that what we are sharing together is great news for them and for us – even when they come more by tradition than faith. And we keep meeting week by week to be encouraged and spurred on as we live out this good news of salvation.
Whatever traditions you have in your family, I hope they too bring your family together to celebrate and remember Easter as the good news of salvation, and that they invite in those who visit to encounter this reality too. You can pray for us with our church plant in Nantes, France – that all the traditions we establish would point firmly to Christ and his salvation work on the cross.