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April 2020

Cheap Chocolate.

No – this isn’t a piece about child labour on cacao plantations and the importance of fair trade, although bearing it in mind is always a good idea.  No – it’s a piece about Easter.  When we lived in the North West a neighbouring family never bought their children Easter eggs until the afternoon of Easter Day (at the earliest) and more often on Easter Monday because by then the supermarket had slashed its prices to clear the seasonal stuff off the shelves.  They were proud of this thrifty move.  It pleased them enormously.  It made me sad.  Because there is definitely a place for extravagance in our lives and I think Easter is it.

Christmas brings extravagance out in almost everybody – whether they’re a church-goer or not – Easter not so much.  The story of Easter is far less user-friendly than the Christmas story.  There are no stars, no kings, no angels, no baby – nothing to coo over, no romance.  There’s mockery, cruelty, earthquakes and an apocalyptic eclipse. Good Friday is the grimmest of stories before the strangeness and wonder of new life on Easter day.  And that contrast between frightening events and an eventual fresh beginning is a story we very much need to hear now.  Things have changed for us almost overnight from a free and easy lifestyle to lockdown.  Fear is (almost literally) in the air.  Things are tough and might get tougher.  It’s all in the Easter story.  In the blink of an eye, Jesus goes from hero to zero in the eyes of his people. Things get tough for him and then they get tougher. But that isn’t the end of the story any more than lockdown is the end for us.   

Easter has no cuddle-factor. The bunny is an interloper from a whole different story – as is the egg, but Christians aren’t daft, we know a good symbol when we see one, so we co-opted the egg.

And I have to say the chocolate egg is a wonderful thing.  There’s something about the taste and feel of a thin sliver of chocolate eggshell that is quite magnificent. It is not at all like a chunk from a bar.  And it is extravagant.  My neighbours were right about one thing though – an Easter egg is a very expensive way to buy chocolate.  But at Easter that’s the point.  God loves us.  Completely.  Extravagantly.  And loving us cost him everything.  If you manage to buy an Easter egg this year, when you pay for it remember that Easter is the very opposite of cheap. 

This Easter will be different for all of us.  No family visits.  No trips out.  But we are a community capable of great things – of sharing so that everyone has something and no-one has nothing; of keeping in touch so that no-one feels lost or alone.  Let’s care for each other extravagantly.  We are of God – looking after each other is built in to our nature.  Have a good  (though different) Easter.

Jan Lees

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