There was a time I really looked forward to Easter. The thought of receiving all of those chocolate eggs was something that would send this little chocoholic into eager anticipation. Lindt chocolate bunnies in particular were my absolute favourite. And then there was the invention of chocolate chip hot cross buns. Divine. Easter was right up there as the most wonderful time of the year.
That was until 2 years ago when I made a somewhat radical decision. I had noticed that as the years progressed I was easily gaining weight that wasn’t so easy to lose so I thought I would try cutting refined sugar from my diet. I made this choice beginning the Wednesday after Easter and I made a disappointing discovery. Without refined sugar in my diet I was sleeping better, thinking clearer and began losing weight. (I was hoping it would make no difference at all so I could go back to the sweet chocolatey treats I loved).
All was going reasonably well but after a few months of this new way of eating I allowed myself the occasional sweet treat and I discovered that the milk chocolate I used to adore was now way too sweet for my palate to enjoy! Instead, I found that dark chocolate was the most I could handle, and it needed to be a high percentage of cocoa, which was something I had always previously considered tasted like dirt.
Then last Easter rolled around. I was given my usual stash of chocolate eggs and other treats and I thought it was lovely. Until I tried eating them. Each of my chocolate treasures were significantly less enjoyable than I had noticed ever before. Even the chocolate chip hot cross bun I allowed myself to have was very disappointing. Now, of course, I could have chosen not to eat them, but these were gifts presented to me by people I care about. I cannot even begin to imagine throwing away such a gift, because it is chocolate after all. So I ate my chocolate stash begrudgingly, almost, and I felt my love of that side of Easter slide away.
This season is coming around again, and as it approaches I am debating about what to do with this dilemma. Do I reject the sweet, chocolate offerings that come my way? Do I accept them graciously before finding someone else to consume them? Do I ask people who might be thinking of buying me chocolate eggs to buy me something else instead?
You can begin to understand the levels of my anxiety about this situation I find myself in, but as I offload this drama here it dawns on me that my focus for Easter is somewhat skewed, and I am not entirely sure how and when this happened. You see, the Easter season in effect has very little to do with chocolate, sugar, or any other type of food, and everything to do with the sacrificial gift of love that Jesus demonstrated for each and every one of us. We were all condemned to eternal punishment from God because we no one is able to live according to His holy laws. Jesus stepped in and took the punishment we so rightly deserve upon himself which enables us to enter into a restored relationship with God.
The trouble is, everywhere we look we see the retail message of Easter (that is chocolate) and nothing about the real message of Easter. At least at Christmas there are some nativity scenes around the shops and decorations. At Easter there are no depictions, apart from the cross on the hot cross buns. This is probably because the images of Jesus’ sacrifice are not as palatable to us and we would rather not be reminded of someone’s pain and suffering.
That is where we are wrong, though. We very much should be reminded of the cost Jesus paid for our freedom. John chapter 3 and verse 16 says that, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” That is a gift worth holding onto and not throwing away.
So this year, as I contemplate my chocolate dilemma, I am hoping that it will remind me that the message of Easter is not wrapped in the chocolate, but the gift that was offered so many years ago. I pray you will realise the value of this gift also as you prepare for this time of celebration.