Disneyland is where almost all Americans feel pulled at least once in their lives. Disney’s mission is to provide happiness through the escape of routine life into the realm of fantasy.
The castle from Sleeping Beauty functions as the central image towering over the Disneyland theme park. Unlike other attractions, this castle is devoid of content. Except for novelty shops along the walkway, this beautiful symbol of Disney’s dream world is empty. Such emptiness strikes me as full of meaning: hypnotizing guests into a trancelike sleep and leaving them unconscious of life’s harsh realities is Disney’s primary purpose.
Storytellers often use sleep as a metaphor for death and waking as a descriptor of resurrection. Shakespeare records a befuddled Hamlet pondering his existence in his famous “To be or not to be” soliloquy:
To die, to sleep—
No more, and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to; ’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished! To die, to sleep—
To sleep: perchance to dream—ay, there’s the rub,
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil … (Hamlet, Act III, Scene 1).
In John 20, Mary Magdalene discovers the empty tomb as Peter and John view Jesus’ folded graveclothes. This is followed by a visit from angels and the risen Jesus calling Mary’s name. Mary embraces the risen Lord, wanting to cling to him. Jesus tells her that his most crucial mission has yet to be fulfilled—“I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God” (John 20:17)—and encourages her to spread the good news.
While Disney lulls us asleep to escape life, Jesus urges us to wake up and experience authentic and full existence. Easter is a reveille call to all believers, announcing the dawn of our new relationship with God through Jesus Christ. It means that, like Jesus, we can be selfless agents of love and reconciliation. As Paul tells us: “We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).
What galvanizes and mobilizes us more—Sleeping Beauty’s empty castle or Jesus Christ’s empty tomb?
The church is often lackadaisical in response to this miraculous gift. We would rather slumber than be awakened to the promise of the future. What galvanizes and mobilizes us more—Sleeping Beauty’s empty castle or Jesus Christ’s empty tomb?
The church’s mission, then, is to make Jesus known. Easter morning is a reminder that Christ has risen and that we should live as if aroused from slumber.
Wake up, church! Wake up, body parts that have fallen asleep and must be shaken back into circulation. Let’s throw off the bedsheets of apathy. Let’s climb off the mattresses of comfort and convenience. Let’s rise and bring the whole world back to life by declaring, “Christ is risen from the dead!”
Alleluia! Christ is risen indeed.