Apart from Christmas, Easter is undoubtedly one of the most significant annual events in a Christian’s life. Marked by huge-scale church activities, egg hunts and celebratory meals with family and friends, it’s a joyous occasion to celebrate and give thanks.
This year’s Easter celebration, however, was going to be a strangely quiet one and to be honest, I was dreading it. The culprit? Yes, of course – the Covid-19 pandemic which ran amok throughout the whole world and the topic that is on everyone’s lips.
In the Holy City of Jerusalem – where thousands would usually gather to walk down the path of Via Dolorosa that Jesus has walked during the Crucifixion – is now deserted. In place of celebratory crowds of people, watchful police officers decked in rigid buttoned-up uniforms and batons patrol the streets, implementing what is now called as social distancing.
Churches all over the world have no choice but to go online – initially a decision made by church leaders to protect the people and afterwards, made mandatory by the government. In other words, it’s not going to look a whole lot like Easter.
For us Christians in Singapore, it was equally dismal. Just a few days shy of Good Friday, PM Lee Hsien Loong announced the Circuit Breaker, implementing strict stay-at-home rules for all Singaporeans and also a law that there will be no gathering of any sorts, regardless of the number of people. This meant that a small cell group of people could not even gather to celebrate Easter together. This also meant that Easter church services have to be brought online for sure – the first ever, and hopefully, the last.
Due to the outbreak of the coronavirus disease, live services in my own church have been suspended for close to two months now since mid-February 2020. Nonetheless, I couldn’t help clinging on to a sliver of hope that the situation would abate by Easter and that the world would be saved.
Well, that’s clearly not going to happen, just like Donald Trump’s wish of getting US to reopen by Easter.
“2020 – a year like no other”
If it were any other year, I would be caught in a flurry of excitement leading up to The Holy Week – preparing for and anticipating the Easter church events, giving praise and thanks, connecting with people and helping out wherever is required.
I miss the action, the drama and the festivities that could only be felt and experienced at church physically.
To be honest, there was little excitement in the days leading up to Easter this year. Although there was online church services, I wasn’t feeling it. The fear brought about by the virus has enveloped the world and no doubt, my world.
Every day the news of rising Covid-19 cases would hit me. The mandatory WFH measures also kicked in for those working in non-essential services. Staying at home every day became my new normal – Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday – what’s the difference? It’s just the same stay-home routine every day, nothing special.
“Easter this year has lost is meaning,” I thought to myself.
“Seeing the light”
But on the bright side, all this “social distancing” has allowed me to have more quiet time. More time for reflection, thinking and prayers.
I also realised how much I was equating Easter to the fun festivities and activities in Church, rather than focusing on the real reason why Easter exists in the first place – the significance of Jesus’ sacrificial death on the Cross.
With the arrival of Good Friday, I got reminded that while live church services may have been temporarily suspended, it did not mean commemoration of the Holy Sacrifice has ceased. God began to renew my mindset and changed my perspective on how I view this season.
The day unexpectedly turned out to be the most opportune time to prepare my heart for the Easter miracle. Cooped at home with plenty of time on my hand, I managed to read the Bible deeply and catch up with the Lent Bible reading plan – something which I’ve always wanted to do but procrastinated due to the busyness of work. As malls and cafes became out-of-bound, picking up my guitar and strumming a worship song or two became my to-go entertainment.
The focus and devotion on God that I felt during this period of time turned out to be so precious and I wouldn’t want to trade it for anything else in this world.
“Easter Sunday – the day of hope!”
As Easter approached this year, the number of COVID-19 cases still continued to rise steadily, with the birth of the new MBS restaurant and McDonald’s clusters. But strangely, I felt a surge of hope arising in me once more.
So what if we are in the midst of this COVID-19 pandemic? Or if Easter is lacking in fun and activities? And so what if we could not gather in churches together to celebrate the Easter day?
On Good Friday more than 2,000 years ago, Jesus died on the Cross. But the story didn’t stop there. Jesus went on to resurrect from the dead on Easter Sunday. The very story of Easter and the Resurrection gives us renewed hope and strength – something that we are all very much in need of right now amidst our current battle with this global pandemic. It’s a beacon of light that serves as a reminder to us all, to give thanks, to help one another in need and to spread hope and positivity.
So, let us remember to pray and show kindness to the people around us. Give support and encourage those who feel frustrated at being “stuck” at home. Thank a frontline healthcare worker who is out there fighting Covid-19 on a daily basis. Let the love of Christ shine forth and go beyond the borders of the church building as we take time to reflect in the Easter miracle.
As the saying goes, ‘there would be no Easter Sunday without Good Friday”. This pandemic will soon pass, and we are going to emerge from this stronger just as Jesus was miraculously resurrected that Easter 2,000 years ago.