BY EMMA MCFARLAND
I’ve always loved Easter. It sits at the beginning of spring, opening the gates to the beginning of a time marked by days that grow longer, so evenings can be spent outdoors with blossoming trees, flowers, and warmth. All my life I have looked forward to Easter.
Growing up, my parents sent my brothers and I to Sunday school on Easter, and we knew the story of the Crucifixion and Resurrection backwards and forwards. Although, I didn’t pay close attention every year when it was taught. The Resurrection was just another fixture of the holiday and felt like the least fun one, so it was tossed aside in anticipation of egg hunts, Easter baskets, and the whole family coming over.
Here’s a fun fact about the McFarland family; we value hospitality and we embody that value beautifully. When you enter one of our homes you are met with a hug, comfortable furniture, and a space that feels welcoming. Our Easters are marked by too many delicious chip and dip options strewn across the counter. There are a lot of conversations happening all at once, and people we don’t know very well are being welcomed into the celebration. I hated this growing up. I liked the comfortable familiarity of my family being the ones around on Easter. Selfishly I didn’t understand why my relatives invited people they didn’t know very well to Easter gatherings.
Going into high school I stopped believing that the Bible was real, and I did not believe that Jesus or God had ever existed. Thus, Easter did not matter for any reason besides the party. I only loved it because my family came over, but by inviting other people to the house for the celebration, Easter became a time I looked forward to less. At the beginning of my freshman year at Washington State University I began to learn about who Jesus was. I began to believe that out of love He came to earth to teach people about who God is and why we need Him. Then at the end of His physical time on earth He died to forgive us all. This forgiveness covers everyone who believes in Him. Jesus put people at ease, He was naturally hospitable, and who He was made my family’s hospitality make more sense. In 1 Peter 4:8-9 we are encouraged to “above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” This brings new meaning when we remember that Jesus loved us deeply and that love covered all our sins forever. I began to wonder why I was complaining about my family’s hospitality when I also claimed to find joy in what Jesus had done for us. As Easter rolled around last April the reason my family invited people in became so much clearer.
The day of Easter, I watched my parents and extended family give thoughtfully as they put together Easter baskets, made my friend who I had invited to come home with me a vegan food option, and joke with and show interest in everyone so they felt at ease. I saw that deep love and willingness to sacrifice time and means that are so often encouraged in the Gospel, and it made me appreciate and understand so much better the reason we were celebrating the death and resurrection of Christ. He had loved us deeply and welcomed us into forgiveness with open arms, much like my family loved the people they invited and welcomed others in with open arms. Seeing the way my family has invited people in encourages me to live the same way. I see my home as a space to invite others into and through hospitality that shows grace and willingness to share what I have, like my family’s, I hope to show or remind my guests of Jesus’ hospitality the same way my family did for me.
While for so long Easter was only a time of being forced to go to church to hear a story I’d heard a million times and to hang out with family, over the last two years it has grown to a time of being reminded of what Jesus did for each of us. My favorite song Moving Forward, by Colony House, explains really well what Jesus does in our lives “I found life and I found laughter, in forgiveness I found rest. On the shoulders of redemption I found hope when hope was dead.” Jesus brought forgiveness that gives us rest that we cannot know without him, because He is a God of peace, and in that peace we find hope in what He did for us when he died. I’ve learned that Easter doesn’t just open the gates to the beginning of a time marked by natural beauty and fun family time, it opened the gates to the beginning of being welcomed into beautiful freedom found in Jesus’ unconditional forgiveness.