The one time of year I'm sure to drink champagne is Easter. About 10 years ago I was reading a book called Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright. He said,
“If Lent is a time to give things up, Easter ought to be a time to take things up. Champagne for breakfast and loud alleluia hymns.”
Champagne is a beverage reserved for occasions of victory, joy, and celebration. Weddings. New Years. Anniversaries. If there is any day we should have a champagne toast, it is Easter. For the Christian, Easter is THE championship day. Here are four reasons I pop a bottle (or two) on Easter:
Death is Misery
Death is every human’s enemy. We’re all going to die. No one is exempt. In our modern culture, we hide death. We institutionalize and sanitize it in hospitals and nursing homes. But I’ve seen people die. I’ve been with people at their last breath. There’s the death rattle. The labored breathing. The smell of decay.
Death is Misery. So why is this morbid fact an occasion for a champagne toast? Because you can’t understand the power of the resurrection if you don’t know the misery of death. You can’t know the joy of Easter if you don’t know the hell of Good Friday. So here’s the second reason:
Death is a Beaten Enemy
“Death is swallowed up in victory.
O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?” (I Cor. 15:55)
One Man defied death.
One Man stared down hell and lives to tell about it.
Jesus stands with his foot on death’s throat.
First century Jewish burial practice included wrapping the body and placing it in a cave or tomb, as Jesus was. But that tomb was not the body’s final resting place. After the time of decay, they would go back to retrieve the bones and place them in a box called an ossuary. This container would be the final resting place of the remains.
So here’s the truth. If Jesus had not risen, someone would have known where his bones were. Someone would have found his ossuary. But they have yet to find the bones of Jesus of Nazareth. We have detailed accounts of his appearing. Paul notes that over 500 witnesses saw Jesus alive after his death. Christ is not dead. He is living, which means death is a beaten enemy.
We Will Rise
“But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.” (I Cor. 15:20-21)
There is an old tradition of having the word resurgam inscribed on gravestones of Christians. Resurgam means “I will rise” in Latin. Jesus is the template, the pattern, that all Christians will follow.
We don’t have a vague optimism in a generic Hallmark heaven with clouds, cherubs, and halos. No, God created us body and soul. Death rips that apart, but Christ is the firstfruit of a new way – body and soul restored. The body you are sitting in right now was created for eternity.
Several years ago, I had a member diagnosed with cancer in her 50's. Within months after diagnosis Ruth was in her final days. One day her husband called me to say that she had just died. I said, “I’ll be right there.”
I rushed to the house, and as I walked down the hallway I heard a strange sound . . . singing. A handful of voices singing hymns in Spanish. Ruth was from Venezuala. I turned into the room and found her husband and children standing around her body. They were singing hymns of joy, confident that this is not the end. Jesus is risen and and we will rise too.
Your Life Matters Now
“You were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (I Cor. 6:20)
Some Christians live like this is a just a waiting room for heaven. Some live lives that are lazy, passive, or selfish. Easter means you are not allowed to be a lazy Christian. Your life matters NOW. What you do in your body, with your life, is important to God and critical for others.
Paul says, “You were bought with a price” – the death and resurrection of Jesus are a costly price. He says, “so glorify God in your body." Now what you do in your body matters. Your singing, working, praying, building, parenting, grandparenting – it matters. Your serving, sharing, cooking and taking the trash out matters. Your caring for the needy and loving your neighbor as yourself matters.
This is why I drink champagne on Easter. Death is misery, but it is a beaten enemy. Christ is alive and we will rise too. Our lives matter. You cannot be neutral about this. Apathy is not an option.
In the Easter season, sing your lungs out!
Death is dead!
Our King is alive!
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!