And God said, “Let there be light in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark the seasons and days and years.” (Genesis 1:14)
As I headed east on my drive home one evening last week, I had to adjust my rear view mirror. The brightness of the sun directly behind me was more intense than those annoying bright headlights at night. The sun was just minutes from setting directly behind me.
I began to remember some of the science I had been taught. We were just a couple days from the spring equinox, when our planet’s axis is perpendicular to the sun. We mark this day as the first day of spring, the day when the sun rises directly to our east and sets directly to our west. It is also the day when daylight and darkness are of nearly equal length.
Our planet will now begin tilting its northern hemisphere toward the sun, bringing west central Missouri longer, warmer days. We call this season spring and most of us look forward to this time of year. We anticipate green grass and deciduous trees full of leaves again. Many of us hope for morel mushrooms to spring up and onto our supper tables.
There was a time in mankind’s history when calendars were not hanging on our walls or living in our phones, TVs and computers; a time when the events of nature told us what time of year it was. Many people today are not aware of the cycles of the moon. Before there was artificial light, everyone understood the moon’s phases and the lighting of the night sky.
The Hebrew people used the moon to determine the Sabbath and the holy festivals. Passover falls on the first full moon after the spring equinox. Western Christians celebrate Easter on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox. This is the reason that Easter is not a fixed date, but falls in a 29-day range during late March and mid-April.
Many of us have been observing the 40-day season of Lent that proceeds Easter. Some have given up something. I miss bacon. Others have added a spiritual discipline. The goal is to grow closer in our relationship with God in anticipation of the Easter celebration.
On March 24, we celebrated Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and the beginning of holy week. Many waved palms and shouted “Hosanna.” During holy week, we remember supper with the disciples, the blessing of bread and wine, his arrest, trial, torture and crucifixion. Then on March 31, we celebrate the most joyful Christian holy day — Easter.
Hopefully, each of us will grow and blossom during this season of the rebirth. Jesus taught us that God’s law hangs on two commandments (Matthew 22:37-40). Love your God and love your neighbor as yourself.
My hope for each of you is that you may joyfully gather with friends and family during this season and reflect on the gift that God’s mercy makes available to us.
Dan Page is lay pastor at Pleasant Green United Methodist Church