Easter is the celebration of Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection – the greatest act of sacrificial love ever witnessed. It is one of the most important events in the Christian calendar and has very little to do with chocolate rabbits or eggs.
Australia has a population of 23 million people, and if you live in one of its big cities it feels like it is one of the most culturally diverse populations in the world.
But in 2011 the census found 61 per cent of Australians identified themselves as some sort of Christian denomination.
The major Christian denominations were Catholic (25 per cent); Anglican; Uniting Church; Presbyterian and Reformed; and Eastern Orthodox.
This suggests that a lot of Australians would have celebrated their Easter within a church or with Jesus at the forefront of their celebrations. But if you had wandered the streets in the lead up to Easter or watched any TV or listened to the radio you would have been hard pressed to find any mention of the religion behind the event. Instead it would appear that the true Australian Easter is a celebration of chocolate eggs, hot cross buns and the famous chocolate Bilby.
My family is different. We’ve never managed to join in with the chocolatey celebration. Being raised as a Seventh-Day Adventist (Christian) it was never something we acknowledged in our household.
Rather than surrounding myself with Easter eggs and an imaginary rabbit between the 13th-17th April, more than 3,000 Seventh Day Adventist’s like myself travelled to Elmore Events Centre for our annual Victorian Conference Camp, Big Camp.
We were not the only ones who decided to have a church conference during Easter. Planetshakers, who are a Pentecostal Christian adults and youth movement in Melbourne, held their own Easter conference in the CBD called ‘NXT Gen’ focused mainly on their youth.
My camp attracted Seventh-Day Adventist’s from all over Victoria and Australia for a four-day celebration of the eternal gift Jesus Christ gave us.
The camp provided us with the opportunity to live a simple life, one surrounded by nature and disconnected from the hustle and bustle of our busy daily lives.
The days were filled with praise and worship, and inspirational sermons from our imported speakers.
Jeremy Anderson (Atlanta, Georgia USA), was the speaker for my tent, the youth. Invited us into his painful past and his now redeemed present and future by the blood of Jesus.
The High Schoolers had Willy Ramos (South Florida, USA), known as the ‘Ghetto Pastor’ for his roots in the ghettos of America. He told us about his life story of how he was in a gang during his youth and now he has answered his true calling of being a pastor.
The sermons touched a lot of hearts with two teenagers declaring their lives to God through baptism during the week. An additional 30 teenagers and youth publicly proclaimed Jesus as their saviour.
“I was truly grateful to be able to grow and develop my love for Christ in a social environment… Being there made my heart so happy as I was, first-hand, witnessing people in the congregation either giving their hearts to Christ for the first time or renewing their lives and starting afresh with God,” said Ella Meleisea, a teen from Rowville SDA Church.
This is how my family and I have been celebrated Easter for the last three years and each year our lives have been changed immensely by the end of the camp.
See there were no chocolate eggs or hot cross buns in sight but maybe a few boxes of Calippos and jam donuts.
Big Camp in not only for Christians, we have a lot of people who are non-believers come and are able to take something away with them from the camp.
So, if you are not doing anything next year ‘Easter’ come join me and a few other thousand families in Elmore for four days of spiritual and social refreshment.
Before I leave you here is a little reminder of what you could witness next year.