“As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. ‘Don’t be alarmed,’ he said. ‘You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’” — Mark 16: 5-7

For the faithful, that verse is probably one of the most important lines in one of the most important stories in world history. It is the triumphant conclusion to a story of love, sacrifice and suffering. It is the culmination of our creator’s covenant with his creation.

For believers, Easter Sunday is the most important holiday of the year. We rejoice in everything the Christian faith is about — the promise of forgiveness, salvation and eternal life made by the creator and made manifest in a baby’s birth — and sealed in the glory of the empty tomb on the third day.

One need not be a believer, however, to appreciate the dawning of the Easter holiday. For many of us, it is a time for reflection and contemplation. It is a time to concentrate on rebirth and renewal and a time to recenter on those promises made on the new year and concentrate on carrying them through to the next year and beyond.

Rebirth. Renewal. Yes, please.

To say that Easter 2020 will be different than in times past would be a huge understatement. Much of our attention has been centered on the coronavirus pandemic that has ravaged the world, and every state in the country, claiming thousands of lives and upending the future of millions.

In years past, Easter was celebrated in churches and homes throughout the country. In thousands of back

yards and church playgrounds across the land, children went on Easter egg hunts while families, friends and worshippers met for food and fellowship — greeting the

joy of the present day and anticipating the good days to come.

Fast forward to April 2020 and the nation is obsessed with social distancing, recessions and face masks. Back yards and church playgrounds are nearly empty as churchgoers, families and friends stay at home, concentrating on the fears of the present day and uncertainties of the days to come.

But there are still signs of hope.

As much of the nation — including we here in Tennessee — concentrate on protecting ourselves and our loved ones from this insidious virus, there are signs the steps that have been taken are starting to bear fruit. Though the numbers of infected and killed Americans are still rising, there are encouraging signs the numbers are starting to peak and level off. The hope is that soon, the numbers will fall.

We are not out of the crisis yet — and stay-at-home orders and social distancing policies still make sense — but we are encouraged and hopeful that this latest storm will pass within the next several weeks.

It is more than appropriate that the Easter holiday is linked with the coming of spring — as nature awakens in verdant splendor from a long, cold winter.

Our winter so far indeed has been long and arduous. It has been filled with fear, anxiety and sorrow.

But Scripture tells us that “blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life.”

Scripture also teaches us that “weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.”

We hope that your Easter morning is filled with joy and promise.

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