When I think of Easter, I think of spring. Easter usually falls in early spring. This year, spring is late enough that the daffodils are massed in full bloom, there are crocus about, and the cherry trees are covered with pink froth. Sometimes, it’s the azaleas and rhodies and tulips we see, but not yet – those are still waiting for warmer weather! Even in warmer years, though, Easter is usually chilly. It often rains, and not just down, but sideways. There’s plenty of mud. Where I live, Easter takes place in a season of storms. That’s what early spring is here.

It’s a curious thing to me, then, that significant parts of the Easter traditions are celebrated outside. Easter egg hunts? Sunrise services? I have vivid memories of being outside in the rain before the sun rose in my Easter getup listening to a sermon… freezing. Easter dresses aren’t usually warm. Hey, they don’t even come in warm colors! The colors are usually drawn from a pastel palette, and the dresses are designed for sunshine and warmer climes.

That expectation, the one of sunshine and gentle life, is another thing that I find curious. Easter is a celebration of life, yes, but in some ways, it is a holiday of horrors and extreme emotion. As Christians tell the story, it’s preceded by a horrible death of a very good man. Jesus was also God and therefore perfect and innocent, and his death, completely undeserved, is considered an atonement for the sins that all the rest of us busily commit. There was great anguish and pain – not only His, but also for His disciples and others who loved Him – present for days. From the cross, an instrument of tortuous, suffocating death, Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” Pain, abandonment, disappointment, probably fear, maybe betrayal – Christ must have experienced, with dreadful immediacy, the whole, crushing range of dark human emotion until death relieved him of that burden. I imagine his disciples, family, friends, and other followers experienced similar, albeit somewhat less intense, feelings. They loved Him. They’d banked on His promises. Can you imagine how it must have felt to watch Him die? To live with the knowledge that He was gone, dead, and far beyond human reach? That Sabbath must have been a very dark and hopeless day for them.

And then, Sunday morning, something too good to be true happened. The stone in front of Christ’s tomb was moved, an angel was sitting on it, and Christ was walking around talking to the women who came to visit His grave. The man who was dead was again alive. This was stupendous, incredible, fantastic news, and not fantastic in the merely excellent or superlative sense (as in, wonderful news!) but also fantastic as in “so extreme as to challenge belief.” That happened. The disciples did not believe the women who reported Jesus as now living, and two of them had to run see for themselves, to see if this ridiculous story could actually be true. I would guess that, when they saw Him alive, they felt such joy that it hurt. He’s alive! He’s alive.

Easter, to me, seems far too dramatic for pastel shading. I could buy into sunshine, particularly the blaze of glory kind, but not gentle life. I have to admit that, little though I like it, when I think about the process of the holiday, even the yucky weather I’ve often experienced seems appropriate. The menacing clouds, the scoffing wind, the pervasive chill, the weeping of the rain – they all serve well to represent the trial and trying of Christ and His people. When the sun comes out, when it’s brilliant and full and so beautiful it hurts, when it bursts out to bless the flowers and green that are already present, it’s a great symbol of the vibrant, flourishing triumph that is Easter and Christ’s resurrection. He is risen! He is risen indeed!

Happy Easter!