Easter is older than Christmas. It certainly goes back to the second century AD, maybe the first. Christmas only gets going in the fourth century – a relative late-comer. It’s interesting how in our ‘post-Christian’ society, Christmas retains a stronger hold than Easter on those who don’t regularly participate in church life. Christmas feels very much like a time when we open up our doors to the wider community and welcome all kinds of people we’re unlikely to see again for another year. Holy Week and Easter remain precious times for Christians, but we probably don’t expect to find many people from beyond our core congregations on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday or Easter Eve. That shouldn’t mean we lose sight of the truth that the good news of Christ crucified and risen is for everyone, not just us. Holy Week and Easter present us with the heart of the gospel more directly than any other occasion – more directly, and perhaps more starkly, to the point of being unsettling. A man being publicly tortured to death by an occupying power looks rather less like a universally appealing image than a radiant child in a manger. And yet we believe that because of Christ’s death, new life is revealed, indeed nothing less than new creation. Because of his death, no one is too sinful, too damaged, too lonely, too deprived, or too close to death, to know and rejoice in God’s sovereign love. No one is beyond the reach of this grace. Good Friday has become a time for churches to move beyond the walls of their buildings and do things outside, not to attract attention to ourselves, but just to affirm our belief that this is something that concerns the whole world. Last year I joined the walk with the cross from Willesborough to Sevington, led on that occasion by the Archbishop of Canterbury; this year I’ll be sharing in a united service at the town centre bandstand at 11am, bringing together the congregations of St Mary’s Ashford Town Centre, Bright City Church and Ashford Baptist Church – and anyone else who would like to come along for worship, prayer and hot-cross buns! Easter Sunday morning is perhaps when our services in this period are most accessible to those who don’t regularly worship with us. Do please consider who you could invite to join you – family, friends, neighbours, colleagues. And have an eye open for anyone you don’t recognise when you get there; would they appreciate a greeting, a conversation? We can’t keep the good news of the crucified and risen Christ to ourselves.
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