The picture you see above was my two children, Easter 2009. We love Easter in our family! Who wouldn’t? As Good Friday and Easter dawn the Christian calendar it usually is accompanied with beautiful things. Longer & warmer days, many of them sunny. Even if rain comes it begins to leave green grass and stunning array of flowers in it’s wake. Easter season is usually beautiful.
Easter comes with it’s great traditions as well. As you notice above, my children are wearing their “Easter Outfits.” That’s a tradition we have and it goes back at least one generation I know because I remember having to go to the store to get a new outfit. Shopping for clothes scarred me as a kid. Now I, like many of you, have carried on that tradition. Plus shopping for myself is more enjoyable now than when I was a kid. Even today my wife mentioned wanting a new dress for Easter. I don’t know where that tradition started but it is definitely entrenched in the Christian subculture at least.
While Easter is not as culturally popular or as commercial as Christmas it is still somewhat of a cultural celebration. Easter egg hunts, big family meals, attending services at a local church or grandma’s church, dyeing eggs, more commercials as churches try to do all they can drum up more attendance, and…you get the picture.
I’m not here to bash traditions, but to affirm them, while seeing if there might be something underneath the traditions that might expand ours and our children’s imaginations to seeing the wonder and beauty that lies at the heart of Easter. So, let me see if we can think together about a few of the traditions here and how we can make them more impactful.
Growing up I got a new outfit for Easter every year. For the most part, my children have had the same experience. If you do the same you may ask yourself, or your children may ask you, why? The worst possible message we can give ourselves or our children is that we need to look pretty! Is it wrong to dress up for Easter? No. However, I would contend that if it is because Easter is more special day — it’s not. Christ followers celebrate his death and resurrection every day. If we say it’s because we should give God our best I would caution you that, on repeat in the New Testament, Jesus is much more concerned with our inward condition than outward appearance. His relentless pursuit of our hearts regardless of our external appearance is impossible to ignore when reading the Bible. So, for us to say God cares about what we wear or think we are impressing him with our new outfit we are missing the point, at best.
Easter outfits that are new are a great way to remember and teach our children that when Jesus was raised to life it was not the same body he died with. He was raised with a new, glorified body. That means a body that was not corruptible by sickness, age, and death. The Bible tells us his resurrection, among other things, was a “first fruit” inferring that those of us who follow him will one day receive an incorruptible body as well (1 Corinthians 15). Let’s rejoice in that! What a promise! In the meantime, on Easter when we draw extra attention to his resurrection let’s celebrate this promised hope with a new outfit — not to mask our corruptible hearts and messy lives but to rejoice that through Jesus our hearts are being made new and one day our bodies will unite at the culmination of God’s restoration story of all things!
#2: Dyeing Easter Eggs: From Craftiness to Creativity
When I think dyeing Easter eggs from a child’s perspective I think FUN! From an adult’s perspective I think MESS! That’s the way my brain works because I am not excessively skilled in craftiness. My wife on the other hand is very crafty. Craftiness is good. It enables us to use skills that God gave us to reflect him. That’s why changing the thought from craft-time to creativity-time would be helpful for us and our children.
God is a creator. He is the Creator. And in Genesis 1:26 it tells us that God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” Therefore, part of what it means to be made in the image of a Creator God is that humans are creative. Sure some are more than other but all of us, on some level, are made to be creators. Now we may not be creators to the extent of God, speaking entire universes into existence, but we can create on smaller scales. Let’s encourage our children not just be crafty but creative! Encourage the image of God in them and tell them along the way how God made them this way.
What’s more, when an egg is dyed it goes from white and plain to colorful! That is a picture of what the story surrounding Easter does. When death seemed to have it’s way with Jesus it was a sad, gloomy day. But Jesus’ resurrection defeated our biggest threat, death, and began a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17) that will culminate in the renewal of the entire cosmos! One easy way to celebrate this is to simply dye eggs while praising God that he is about bringing new life (egg) and adding color to what would be a sad, bland and desolate world without his grace (color)!
#3: Church Service: From Wandering Minds to Worshiping Hearts
Another tradition pervasive in American culture is attending a church service. Whether it be with grandma & grandpa, or with parents, or maybe it’s one of the only Sundays a year you take your family because it makes you feel like a better person to “go to church” on Easter; either way, Easter is one of the highest attended days churches have in a year.
Attending a service is great. The only problem is with your perspective. Attending a service does not make you holier any more than not attending makes you a disgrace. We are all in need of saving. We all need grace. None of us deserve it. As they say, “the ground is level at the foot of the cross.” Or Paul would put it this way, “None is righteous, no not one; no one understands, no one seeks God.” Romans 3:11. Later he would say,
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. Romans 3:23-35
This truth should awaken our minds that so easily wander during a service and stir our hearts with greater affection for Jesus and what he accomplished for us at Easter.
Because of Easter Paul can say, “For our sake [God] made [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21). God was so pleased with Jesus’ perfect life and sacrificial death for us that God raised him to life and placed him in a position of authority.
9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:9-11
In essence: the goal of life, not just a Sunday service, are hearts and lives that worship Jesus as not just a risen historical figure, but the risen LORD of the world which includes LORD of my life.
We don’t want to “go to church” on Easter. We want to worship Jesus, who is as alive today as you and me, and is the source of all life and joy. When we see Jesus as the only place to find true life and happiness we are worshiping him. When our minds wander again and again it’s a reminder of this truth that leads back to worship.
#4: Easter Meal: From Filling Bellies to Feasting with Jesus
This may sound a bit super-spiritual. The first time I considered this was when I heard someone pray for a meal thanking God for creating such wonderful flavors for our enjoyment. I thought, “That’s kind of silly.” Just thank God so we can eat already.
Yet, I now find myself thanking God quite often for the exact same thing. He did create amazing flavors. As Creator he could have made food taste like anything he wanted. He could have given us simply water and crackers. But he did not. He gave us plants and fruits for food from the beginning. Fresh food is so refreshing. He is a good Creator! Think of all the things we can make with those things.
One product of fruit is something that Jesus enjoyed regularly: wine. Scripture tells us that on the night that Jesus was betrayed he enjoyed wine and unleavened bread with his disciples. He told him how they were symbols of the sacrifice he would make. The bread representing his body broken for us, the wine, his blood shed for the forgiveness of sins. The last thing he said was that he would not eat the bread or drink the fruit of the vine until he did with all of his disciples at the culmination of God’s restoration project.
Easter meal is like a foretaste of the feast Jesus’ followers will enjoy when we all experience resurrection. Imagine the flavors of that meal that has been planned from before time began! What a glorious feast that will be! Until then, we can train ourselves and children to enjoy Easter meals as a celebration and appetizer to the main event for those who love God and are called according to his purpose will enjoy one day together as family.
The first Easter was the most transformational day in human history. The Bible tells us that without the resurrection we would be hopeless. Praise be to God that we don’t live in a world that has not experienced Jesus’ resurrection. It did happen. We are not hopeless.
This Easter step beyond tradition and be transformed by the living and abiding LORD of the world, Jesus Christ.