Easter and the Moon

As I flip the calendar into April, I turn the page from winter and look forward to spring breezes, budding flowers, and the hope that the patches of brown in my front lawn will soon turn to green.

In some parts of the country, spring beckons with intermittent moments of grandeur as we jump erratically from warm to cold and back again. Today while sitting at the breakfast table, I watch a spray of sunshine shimmer past my window across the newly resurrected lawn where sprigs of green have begun to emerge.

Yes, spring will soon begin, and with spring comes the resurrection of life both in nature and for us as Christians. Easter is coming—that wonderful day of celebration.

But each year, one baffling question always arises. The question of When?  “When is Easter this year?”

How many times do we either ask or hear that question?

When Is Easter?

This year, it comes early on March 27. But last year it was April 5 and the year before, it was at the end of April on April 20. So why the inconsistent shifting of dates for Easter on the calendar?

The answer is that Easter is determined by the moon, and it always comes on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the beginning of spring. Consequently, Easter can fall anytime between March 22 and April 25. And the reason the moon is used to determine the date for Easter is because of the Jewish calendar and our Christian heritage that rose from the roots of Judaism.

On Easter we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, which took place on the first Sunday following the feast of Passover. The date of Passover is determined by the Paschal (or Passover) full moon, which is the first Ecclesiastical Full Moon after March 20. So, in Western Christianity, Easter is always celebrated on the Sunday immediately following the Paschal or Passover Full Moon, which also corresponds to the first day of spring on March 20.

Our world is synchronized in mysterious ways that God has engineered. He uses the sun, moon, stars and nature, not only to order our lives, but to enhance them, and even to speak to us. Interestingly, the Jewish calendar is based on both solar and lunar movements, and all the Jewish holidays revolve around the date of the New Moon. And for Christians, the moon tells us when Easter is coming, the day we celebrate our risen Lord who came to wash away our sins and give us eternal life.

Helping Children Find the Heroism in Easter

But there’s one other strange thing about the full moon. And this may be a delightful discovery for children . . . and even for parents who grapple with how to fit the Easter bunny into the tradition of Easter without taking away from the true Easter message. Many years ago while doing research for a newspaper article about Easter, I learned that ancient storytellers in the East had seen a rabbit in the dark patches on the left side of the moon and were so fascinated that they created legends about the rabbit and his heroism. Even today, in modern China, the tradition of the rabbit in the moon is so steeped in their culture that when China sent a lunar rover to the moon for exploration, it was referred to as the Jade Rabbit, which is what the Chinese call their rabbit in the moon.

When I checked out their claim, I did indeed spot the image of a rabbit in the dark shadows on the left side of the moon with his ears pointing to the top right. I started creating stories of my own about him and how he became a hero to get to the moon. In the years since that time, my own children have enjoyed looking for him in each full moon. Once I had grandchildren, the charm of these coincidences seemed too delightful to keep to ourselves. My children’s Easter book, The Bunny Side of Easter, pulls all this together to point children to the true meaning of Easter and the greatest hero of all through a fun adventure story about the Easter bunny, who becomes a hero and goes to the moon,

The Mysteries of God’s Creation

The way that God has orchestrated his creation to mesh with our daily lives is always a thing of wonder to me. Just as He uses the sun and moon to order our days and years, he uses the seasons to help us plan for our livelihood so we know when to plant and when to reap. But not only does He use them for our practical needs, He also uses the seasons, as well as seeds that sprout into living things, to teach us about life, death, and resurrection. He used the star to guide the magi to the manger where Jesus was born. And He uses the rainbow as a promise that He would never again destroy us.

One of the delightful things about God is the way he tucks little mysteries into his creation, just waiting for us to discover them. What a crazy irony to think that we can find honey in a bee hive or medicine like aspirin in the bark of the white willow. Scientists continually discover new cures and make new uses from the intricate body of God’s design. God’s creation nurtures, teaches, inspires, and entertains us. And it always brings hope.

So as we turn the page of the calendar, spring welcomes us into the celebration of new life and the beauty and mysteries of God’s creation. Once more God uses His metaphor of spring to prepare us for the resurrection. Easter is coming. His creation tells us so. And our risen Lord reigns above it all in everlasting glory.

Suggested Reading:

The Bunny Side of Easter is a children’s picture book that connects children to the true meaning of Easter through an exciting and charming adventure with hints of allegory in which an ordinary rabbit’s act of heroism makes him the Easter bunny and the rabbit on the moon. In endorsing the book, Becky Hunter, wife of Senior Pastor Joel C. Hunter of Northland a Church Distributed in Longwood, Florida, says: “I read the book to our four-year-old grandson, Luke, last night and he absolutely was enthralled with the story! Such a beautiful job of capturing the heart of what it means to sacrifice for others; a tough concept for all of us, but especially for children. The book led us to a great talk about Jesus’ sacrifice making Him the greatest hero of all.”