American Readers of a “certain age” will remember the iconic Burma-Shave advertisements that lined the two lane highways across America for decades.
For those who don’t remember, Burma-Shave, the maker of men’s brushless shaving cream, put up numerous multi-sign advertisements with poetic ditties that drew everyone’s attention. As Wikipedia explains: typically, six consecutive small signs would be posted along the edge of highways, spaced for sequential reading by passing motorists. The last sign was almost always the name of the product. The signs were originally produced in two color combinations: red-and-white and orange-and-black, though the latter was eliminated after a few years. A special white-on-blue set of signs was developed for South Dakota, which restricted the color red on roadside signs to official warning notices. This use of a series of small signs, each of which bore part of a commercial message, was a successful approach to highway advertising during the early years of highway travel, drawing the attention of passing motorists who were curious to learn the punchline. Some of the signs featured safety messages about speeding instead of advertisements.
The messages were clever:
- Train approaching / Whistle squealing / Stop / Avoid that run-down feeling / Burma-Shave
- Past / Schoolhouses / Take it slow / Let the little / Shavers grow / Burma-Shave
I thought someone was bringing back the Burma-Shave signs when I saw a sequence of three messages out front of a church the other day: April 5 / Free Breakfast Buffet / 10 a.m. No mention of the occasion, just an announcement about a free dinner.
Then there was the large sign erected in front of a church in the next county over that read: Gigantic Easter Egg Hunt, 10 a.m., April 4, 3,000 eggs!
At least this one mentioned the holiday.
It looks like another holiday is going the way of Christmas trees, flashing lights, consumerism, and Santa Claus.
Today it’s “Spring” Break, Easter parades, chocolate bunnies and 3,000 eggs along with a free breakfast buffet.
Oh yes, it’s also Easter Sunday—just to set the record straight.
Would that we could recapture the overwhelming excitement of those early days of the church following the actual resurrection of Jesus Christ, the son of God.
The writers of the earliest accounts reported as fact, with no doubt, that Jesus had risen: When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. (Mark 16:9); Afterward Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country. (Mark 16:12); Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen. (Mark 16:14)
The Apostle Paul summarized the record which so enthused the early Christians: Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. (First Corinthians 15: 1-7)
At our church in Costa Rica one year we emphasized the resurrection by greeting each other with the words: “He is risen,” “He is risen, indeed!”
Those words were the affirmation of the earliest Christians as a positive statement of belief that Jesus had risen. That’s why we Christians worship on Sunday, to celebrate each week the resurrection of our Lord.
Much more powerful than a gigantic hunt for 3,000 eggs.
During our years in Ecuador we got to know a number of people from the Otavalan Indian community. These Quichua (and Spanish)-speaking descendants of the Incas had only been evangelized for about 20 years before we knew them and we occasionally worshipped in their Quito church.
I remember asking my Otavalan friend Pablo one year what he and his family planned to do for Christmas. “On Christmas Eve,” he told me, “we will play some soccer after work, and then eat dinner. After that we’ll go to church and worship.”
“What about Christmas day?” I queried.
“We’ll go to church in the morning, and then we’ll come home and eat dinner. In the afternoon we’ll play some soccer.”
What else, I wondered. “Nothing else,” he responded. “Just celebrate the birth of Jesus.”
No decorated trees, no blinking lights, no stuffed stocking, no frantic last-minute shopping, no Christmas cards and letters.
Just a little soccer, fellowship with family and fellow believers around the table, and worshiping God for his incredible gift of Jesus Christ.
These fledgling Christians have it right, Christmas or Easter. Focus and celebrate and proclaim the essential.
He is Risen! He is risen, indeed!
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