One Easter morning, many years ago, I awoke to find a straw cowboy hat at the foot of my bed. It was filled with Easter candy and wrapped in cellophane. I guess I was supposed to be excited by the candy, but what really made me happy was my very own cowboy hat. It just fit. I wasn’t allowed to wear it in Church or at the dinner table, but otherwise, it was on my head the whole day and Easter Monday too. I even tried to take a nap with the cowboy hat over my face, like they did in the movies. But I was too excited to sleep. I had a cowboy hat.
Finding a cowboy hat on Easter morning was, for me at least, exciting and unexpected. Searching for and finding Easter eggs is exciting and finding them behind that book or under that lid is unexpected. We spend more than forty days preparing for Easter in the Church and when it comes – it comes with excitement, but not unexpectedly.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ was not expected by his followers. Even though people like Martha professed belief in the resurrection, and Jesus more than just hinted at it, the empty tomb was a surprise. It was a shocking, confusing and scary discovery. At first, the Apostles refused to believe Mary Magdalene when she returned with the news that the Lord is risen.
I wish somehow that we could hear the news of the resurrection with the same kind of shock: that we could, every year at Easter, experience the movement from shock to the realization of the significance of the resurrection. What great joy we try and instill in ourselves by knowing that there shouldn’t be a chocolate egg behind that box of Kleenex, but there is!
We gather in worship on Easter morning, knowing the story, knowing that the tomb is empty and that Christ is risen and may it be for us this year, at least as joyful as finding a cowboy hat at the foot of the bed, and unexpectedly. And may the realization of the meaning of the resurrection wash over us in such a way that we can’t help but shout, “Alleluia!”