Confession: I sometimes have a hard time getting in to celebrating religious holidays. I did not grow up going to church very often, so terms like advent, passover, and palm Sunday had little to no meaning. I celebrated Christmas and Easter, but with Santa and the Easter Bunny.
Now that I am learning to love God with all my heart, Christmas and Easter have such a richer, deeper meaning, but I still have a hard time celebrating them.
I think it feels a little insincere to make such a big deal of Jesus coming to earth only at Christmas or reflecting on what Jesus did on the cross only at Easter. I want God to know how important I think it is that Jesus died for me every day of the year, not just on the anniversary of what he did.
But then I realize that my thinking is flawed. If this same principle was applied across the board, I would need to stop celebrating birthdays, anniversaries, mother’s day, etc.
Here’s what I mean:
I love to celebrate birthdays. I want the person to feel loved and valued and special every day of the year, but I think everyone should have one day a year that they feel extra special. I doubt anyone who has received an extravagant celebration feels it was insincere, unless they do not feel loved and valued on the other 364 days of the year.
At the risk of being completely obvious, I will just say it: If Easter is the only time of year that we reflect on what Jesus did, then we ARE being insincere. If, however, on the other 364 days of the year we affirm what we celebrate on that ONE day of the year, then the extra celebration serves to more deeply root our love and commitment.
So I have concluded that it is good, and completely genuine, to take a day a year to go above and beyond in our thankfulness and adoration. Just like in preparing for a birthday, some advanced preparation is needed. As the birthdays of my children arrive, my husband and I will often reflect on what we were doing in those final days, all those years ago, before their birth. I have been doing the same today, as I reflect on what this day in history was like for Jesus.
The story goes like this: Jesus told a couple of his disciples to go into the town and look for a young donkey that would be tied up waiting for them. He told them what to tell anyone who would try to stop them from “stealing” the donkey. The disciples did as they were told, and everything happened just as Jesus said it would. Jesus then rode into Jerusalem on this donkey, as all the people cheered and welcomed him as they would a king.
The thing that struck me was that this particular donkey had never been ridden before. If you know me at all, then you know that I love horses. I am currently searching and wondering about my next horse. I have looked at a few horses that are not yet broke to ride. The thought of “breaking” a horse to be ridden is a little intimidating for me. I have ridden a horse that has only been ridden a handful of times, and I have witnessed and participated in many steps of the training, but I have never broken a horse all by myself.
As you are training a horse, you first give them plenty of time to get used to the tack (the equipment) that you need to use. Then, once the horse could care less about the tack, you begin working on teaching them to accept the weight of a rider. This does not usually happen the first day. There are several days (or weeks or months) of gradually increasing the weight, pressure, and pull on the saddle. Often times, the horse bucks and tries to get away from all the weight until they finally come to a point of acceptance. I learned this first hand by earning a very large and colorful bruise on my hip that came from leaning over the horse on my stomach as it took off bucking.
Knowing the amount of time, and energy, and trust it takes for an animal to be ready to carry a rider, today I was struck by the fact that Jesus rode on a donkey that had never carried another human before. Jesus’ disciples simply through their cloaks up on the donkey and Jesus hopped on. At that moment, when Jesus crawled up on that donkey, I doubt he worried about getting bucked off. He wasn’t even concerned about training the donkey. This moment was so much bigger than that. And really, none of that training was needed. Jesus was one with his creation. He was there when all was made. It was through Him that it was all made, and it is through him that all creation is reconciled to himself. Of course the donkey did not mind carrying the Son of God, the Word of Truth, the Author of Life on its back.
I think the fact that the donkey had never been ridden before makes that moment of triumph as he entered the city, finally ready to be recognized as the King of the Jews (and the King of all Kings) that much sweeter. Jesus came to bring Peace – lasting peace. Even an unbroken donkey was at peace in His presence.