Easter in Autumn – by MVC Missionaries, Annie and Dan Erickson
As I sit here looking outside my window, the first signs of autumn are appearing. The leaves on my mulberry tree are beginning to turn yellow, and there is a crispness in the air each morning.
“Wait a minute,” you say. “It’s spring! We just finished enjoying the beauty of the almond orchards blossoming!” And this is true… for those of you in the Northern Hemisphere. But for those of us in the Southern Hemisphere, the seasons are reversed, and we have just entered autumn.
I knew when we moved to South Africa thirteen years ago to expect culture shock. What I didn’t know – and never could have guessed – was how much my faith would be stretched. My culture was so wrapped up and intertwined in my faith that I had difficulty separating the two. Let me explain.
Christmas is in summer. Everything I associated with the celebration of Christ’s birth – Christmas trees, hot cocoa, candy canes, big family gatherings with turkey dinner and cranberry sauce, nativity scenes, Christmas Eve services with my favourite Christmas carols – doesn’t exist here. Christmas in South Africa is barbecues and swim parties with family. Christmas is summer holidays between school years.
And Easter is in autumn. How am I supposed to celebrate new life in Christ when everything around me is dying? The metaphor of spring for rebirth just doesn’t work down here. How do I find joy in the Resurrection when I seem to be stuck in Good Friday?
I suddenly found myself not being able to celebrate the two biggest events in Christianity. And I struggled. But slowly, slowly, I began to realize that all of the things I associated with Christmas and Easter were just cultural traditions. And while those are important, there are other cultural traditions here in South Africa that are just as meaningful and the Good News of Christ – the Gospel – fits beautifully into every culture.
So thirteen years later, as I look ahead to another Easter in autumn, I find it particularly meaningful this year. Much of the world seems to be in a sort of “autumn” – our sense of security is dying, there is a chill in the air when it comes to the economy and the future, and we are bracing ourselves for the winter ahead. But guess what? When it comes to the death and resurrection of Jesus, nothing changes! He paid the penalty for our sin and bridged the gap between a fallen world and a Holy God, and we have redemption through His blood and the forgiveness of sins (Ephesians 1:7)! It doesn’t matter what it looks like outside my window!
So if you find yourself more in a Good Friday mood this year, or even a Holy Saturday kind of mood – stuck in a liminal space between the former and the not yet – give yourself a little grace. And then remind yourself that the truth of God’s faithfulness is greater than the reality of our circumstances.
And come Easter morning, when you attend church online, we’ll be there too, down here in autumn-y South Africa, celebrating and rejoicing in the resurrection of Christ and the promise of new life.
26 degrees south of the equator
is midsummer. Frosty the Snowman
plays on grocery store speakers
in ninety degree heat.
Grilling boerewors by the pool
doesn’t make it more familiar
to Northern sensibilities,
even after all these years.
Now leaves turn,
carpet the ground.
Good Friday has us shivering,
looking up at that Southern Cross
happens in the Fall here
and Winter was always
part of the Plan—
A resting slow-sapped time,
a great sleep
with a joyful awakening,
in any season
after a long-held breath.
And then an embrace
from the First Sleeper
to awaken, the One we remember
with bread and wine.