It was the most memorable birthday party I’ve ever attended. That’s because it was literally a birth-day.
I was the only available family member when my cousin was going into her last contractions. She’d already been at the hospital for over 20 hours and family and friends did our best to be there the whole time.
Within a few hours of the start of my shift, I knew I wasn’t just there to visit. Her doctor arrived after I did and told her that the baby wasn’t coming out. The baby was facing the wrong way so the doctor recommended a C-section. The words themselves made my cousin wince with pain, even more than she was already in. She remembered how in the Philippines, women undergoing a C-section would have to recuperate in the hospital for days or even weeks. The procedure there was long and painful because supplies like anesthetic drugs, morphine or even gloves were expensive. But despite this fear, she agreed to the procedure, allowing me to participate in my first birth!
As I put on my medical gown for the delivery room, I thought about my cousin’s fears. She really didn’t understand the state of the art medical facility she was in and how much safer she and her baby were in a Canadian hospital. It also made me think about how Canadians take that same medical care for granted. Most of us expect that we will get everything we need when we are sick.
Unfortunately, we face the same attitude when it comes to Easter. Those of us who’ve grown up in the church, which is the majority of Christians in Canada, have heard the Easter story through countless pageants, sermons and church hymns. It’s the greatest story ever told yet we take it for granted so easily. Churches struggle to find adults to teach bible studies while youth pastors struggle to keep young people awake during their meetings.
Worse, many Canadians who think they know this story have walked away from the faith. A 2012 study done for the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada and other Christian ministries found that, “for every five Catholic and Mainline Protestant kids who attended church at least weekly in the 1980s and ’90s only one still attends at least weekly now as an adult; for those raised in Evangelical traditions it is one in two. And that’s not all. Most who have quit attending altogether also have dropped their Christian affiliation.”
But how did the most life-saving story in Christendom become so stale for so many Canadians?
I can’t help but think much of this reaction is due to the fact that so many Canadians if they know the Easter story at all, know it only as that, a story. So much of our culture has spent its time trying to discredit Easter that few Canadians actually understand its historical significance. That’s true of books, movies and even tv specials. Just watch the Easter specials that appear on specialty channels and you’ll know what I mean. Whether it’s Simcha Jacobovici claiming to have found Jesus’ body or Zeitgeist: the Movie claiming that the resurrection story was stolen from the Mithras or Osiris legends, much has been done to undermine Easter’s veracity. If the events in the Easter story were only legendary, it is no wonder Canadians will lose interest in them. A good story can never compare to a good story that is also true.
That’s why we came together as Canadian bloggers to present a case for why the resurrection of Jesus Christ was not just a good story but The Story – the most important historical event since by it, all other history can be understood. What else can you call a story where God came down as a human being to save humanity, was cruelly executed by the very people He came to save and then overcame death by coming back to life? These events show that not only does God exist but that He cares intimately for fallen people. And if true, it’s a story then that no one should take for granted.
Now some will look at this evidence and dismiss its importance. Many church leaders think evidences for the resurrection are like lawn ornaments – pretty to look at but unnecessary. They would even argue that faith requires us to believe blindly, despite what a rational mind would tell us.
But the Christian apologists’ favourite verse makes it clear why we must provide good reasons for Easter. 1 Peter 3:15 states, “…but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence…”
In other words, we don’t just give good reasons for Easter because we like arguments. The reason we give a defense for our beliefs is because it explains why we live with hope and how others can live with it too. In fact, this verse implies that we can’t have hope if there were no reasons for it!
Despite our technological advancements and multicultural pluralism, Canadians are still desperate for hope. That’s why a Muslim acquaintance asked to borrow a copy of the Passion of the Christ or why non-Christian students at the U of Calgary come regularly to a Christian meeting on campus and dialogue with me. They aren’t looking for nice stories – they’re looking for reasons to trust the message of Christianity.
And that’s true for Christians too. We need to be constantly reminded that the trust we placed in Christ is not misplaced, despite everything our culture teaches us. We need to know the reasons for our faith are much more believable than any alternative. No one of course claims that these facts can save anyone. What we’ve argued is that they provide a foundation for understanding where we can find salvation. These are the reason why Canadians still need Easter.
Though so many people are rejecting faith, I hope the facts we presented in our blogs can show any honest seeker that the message of Christ is as true today as it was when He walked the dirty roads of Jerusalem. The evidence for the historicity of the Easter events as well as the transformed lives of broken people who are now Christians, testify that the gospel message has been tested and proven time and again.
As I held my cousin’s baby for the first time, I looked at her tiny face and began to think of the Canada she was inheriting – how hostile would it be to Christians in the future? Would it show any honour to its Creator?
But as those fears filled my head, I remembered one of my favourite Easter hymns. In that hospital room, I quietly hummed it to her, entrusting her life to the One we all have reason to hope in:
How to sweet to hold a newborn baby
And feel the joy and love she brings.
But greater still
The calm assurance
This child can face uncertain days
Because He lives.
Hemorrhaging Faith: Why and When Canadian Young Adults are Leaving, Staying and Returning to Church, James Penner, Rachael Harder, Erika Anderson, Bruno Désorcy and Rick Hiemstra, 2012.