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Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! These are the familiar words of greeting that we hear as we gather together in church each year to celebrate Easter.
Easter lies right at the heart of our Christian faith. Fortunately it is a celebration that has largely avoided the commercial distractions that we associate with Christmas which helps us to focus more clearly on the stone rolled away, the empty tomb and Jesus appearing to his friends – He is risen!
As we sing ‘Jesus lives’ there are signs of new life all around us – spring flowers filling the churchyard with colour, trees in bud, birds that departed for the winter start to reappear and then there is the warmth from the sun (no promises). We look forward to the longer summer days and the keen gardeners among us look forward to sowing seed that brings new life (and less so to having to dust-off the lawnmower).
There is a similar rhythm of new life that we experience in Christian baptism as we turn to Christ and follow him anew so it is no coincidence that many churches use the occasion to renew baptismal vows. Baptism offers a new start and an opportunity for us to move forward in our faith but it also presents us with a number of challenges. When we respond to the question ‘Do you turn to Christ?’ our response has to be much more than just repeating some words that are printed on an order of service; it is about our whole being, about our priorities, about the way that we respond to others and most of all the way that we respond to Jesus’ calling. He calls us into a closer relationship with him in many different ways but for each one of us the question that we need to ask how is he calling me?
Something that connects the arrival of spring, the anticipation of Easter and our calling is a simple thing – hope. A dictionary definition of hope that I came across was ‘a feeling of expectation or desire’ but many years ago someone described hope to me in a different way. She simply said ‘hope is the light of our lives’. It is about seeking light in the darkness, looking for signs of good, however small, in whatever circumstances we find ourselves. It is about encouragement and being encouraged. The Easter message offers us all hope, even at the most difficult of times and in the darkest places just as the stone that had been rolled away allowed light to transform the darkened cave. If we really turn to Christ then the miracle of the resurrection takes place deep within us and its impact is to be found in our daily lives and routines as we enter into a deeper and richer relationship with God and others. There is hope for us all! Alleluia!