Resurrection of the Lord
Easter Sunday is the day Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus the Christ from the dead. The early church saw his resurrection as the central witness to a new act of God in history and the victory of God in vindicating Jesus as the Messiah.
Easter is an annual celebration of the Resurrection that lies at the centre of a liturgical year has been observed at least since the fourth century. Even in churches that traditionally do not observe the other historic seasons of the church year, Easter has occupied a central place as the high point of Christian worship.
First, Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures.
Second, Christ was buried. There should be no doubt about the awful finality of his death and burial. Yet this was not merely a martyr’s death for a noble cause. It was for our sins, and therefore redemptive.
Third, Christ was raised on the third day in accordance with Scripture. The passive verb means that Jesus did not rise by himself but was raised by God. The terrible dilemma of a messiah executed as a criminal gave way to the good news that God vindicated him by raising him up.
Finally, Christ appeared to Cephas and the twelve, as reported also in the gospels.
In the Christian church year, the two major cycles of seasons, Christmas and Easter, are far more than a single day of observance. Like Christmas, Easter itself is a period of time rather than just a day. It is actually a seven-week season of the church year called Eastertide.
These seven Sundays are called the Sundays of Easter, climaxing on the seventh Sunday, the Sunday before Pentecost Sunday. Ascension Day (actually the 40th day after Easter Sunday, which always falls on Thursday, is celebrated on the actual day. Ascension Day marks not only the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, but his exaltation from servanthood to Ruler and Lord as the fitting climax of Resurrection Day.
Easter encompasses a time of preparation (Lent; Advent for Christmas) as well as a following period of reflection on its significance for the life of God’s people (Pentecost; Epiphany for Christmas). However, while Epiphany following Christmas focuses on the mission of God’s people to the world, the Pentecost season following Easter focuses on the church as the witness to the resurrection. In anticipation of this emphasis at Pentecost, the Scripture readings during the Sundays of Easter are different, with readings from the Acts of the Apostles replacing readings from the Old Testament. This emphasizes that the church, as empowered by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, is the best witness to the resurrection and the work of God in the world in Jesus the Christ.
The Colours of Easter
Colour used in worship is especially important during the season of Easter (see Liturgical Colours of the Church Year and The Meaning of Church Colours). The changing colours of the sanctuary from the purple of Lent to the black of Good Friday provide graphic visual symbols for the Lenten journey.
The Sanctuary colours for Easter Sunday, the five Sundays of Easter and Ascension Day are white and gold.
For the Easter season, white symbolizes the hope of the resurrection, as well as the purity and newness that comes from victory over sin and death. The gold symbolizes the light of the world brought by the risen Christ that enlightens the world, as well as the exaltation of Jesus as Lord and King. The sanctuary colour of Red is used for Pentecost Sunday.