Frederick Buechner has been one of my very favorite writers. His book “Telling The Truth—the Gospel As Comedy, Tragedy, and Fairy Tale” changed my life. I highly recommend it. Buechner has a way of using fresh language to describe so much of the old, profound truths of the Bible and the Christian Faith.
In his book, “Whistling In The Dark” he says this about Easter:
“Christmas has a large and colorful cast of characters including not only the three principals themselves, but the Angel Gabriel, the Innkeeper, the Shepherds. The Heavenly Hosts, the Three Wise Men, Herod, The Star of Bethlehem and even the animals kneeling in the straw. In one form or another we have seen them represented so often that we would recognize them anywhere. We know the birth in all its detail as well as we know the births of our children. The manger is as familiar as home.”
With Easter, it is entirely different. The gospels are far from clear as to just what happened. It began in the dark. The stone had been rolled aside. Matthew alone speaks of an earthquake. In the tomb, there were two white-clad figures or possibly only one. Mary Magdalene apparently had gotten there before anyone else. There was a man lingering around she thought was the gardener. One account says Peter came too, along with another disciple. Another account has only the women there and the disciples, who were somewhere else, didn’t believe the women’s story when they heard it. There was a lot of running around. Matthew speaks of “fear and great joy.” Confusion was everywhere. There is no agreement even as to the role of Jesus himself. Did he appear at the tomb or only later? Where? To whom? What did he say? What did he do?
It was not a major production at all, and the minor attractions we have created around it—the bunnies and baskets and bonnets, the dyed eggs—have so little to do with what it’s all about that they neither add much nor subtract much. It isn’t even much of a story when you come right down to it, and that is, of course, the power of it. It doesn’t have the ring of great drama. It has the ring of truth. If the gospel writers had wanted to tell it in a way to convince the world that Jesus indeed rose from the dead, they would presumably have done it with all the skill and fanfare they could muster. Here there is no skill, no fanfare. They seem to be telling it simply the way it was.
The symbol of Easter is the empty tomb. You can’t depict or domesticate emptiness. You can’t make it into pageants and string it with lights. It doesn’t move people to give presents and sing old songs.
He rose. A few saw him briefly and talked to him. If it is true, there is nothing left to say. For believers and unbelievers both, life has never been the same again. What is left now is the emptiness. There are those who, like Magdalene, will never stop searching until they hear his voice and find his face.