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A few weeks before Easter I start rummaging around for our Easter-themed books and decorations. I pull out picture books like The Colt and The King and The Tale of the Three Trees to stack in a basket on the coffee table. I find the plastic eggs. I cut branches off the dogwood tree.
The grey buds will be knobby and tight—not yet open. They look dead. I will pull my green pitcher from the shelf and arrange the bare branches in some water. Now they are ready to be transformed into a Resurrection Tree.
As a family, we’ve looked for ways to celebrate Jesus’ death and resurrection in tangible, hands-on ways. To prepare our hearts during the busy organizing of Easter baskets and planning of a Sunday dinner. Ways that build up to Easter morning, so that we have a clear idea as to why we celebrate.
And it all starts with remembering.
In the week or two leading up to Easter we trace the story from Genesis to the New Testament by reading portions of scripture and hanging ornaments on the dogwood branches. The kids love to take turns hanging up the beautiful scenes from scripture. With each ornament, we remember our need to be rescued and that Jesus was the one who came to save us.
Like Communion, Easter is a time of remembrance. It instigates reflection. “Do this in remembrance of me,” Jesus said in 1 Corinthians 11:24. Just like pausing in a service to drink the cup and eat the bread, I’m pausing during my year to focus specifically on Jesus and His sacrifice.
One of the things we remember is our need for repentance.
Even though I’ve placed my trust in Christ’s work and am secure in his grasp, it is good for me to remember the why behind the whole narrative arc of scripture. I needed forgiveness and there was nothing I could do to accomplish it. The Bible uses the metaphor of “dead in sin” to describe my condition. And so, Jesus was sent on a rescue mission. A mission to bring me back to life.
As Easter nears, the dogwood branches are no longer bare. They are filled with ornaments.
Resurrection morning will soon dawn and there will be a time of celebration. For Easter represents the reality that though “in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22). The last enemy to be destroyed is death and Jesus has done just that.
“Jesus came and departed. But his resurrection means that everything in God’s kingdom is alive; in every moment something is happening,” writes Christopher Friedrich Blumhardt in Watch for the Light.
God is still working. He is resurrecting hearts that were once dead to him. He is bringing them back to life, both for today and the eternal life to come.
And the dogwood branches are blooming. The cross-shaped blossoms are tipped pink.
Image Credit: Thinkstock.com
If you are interested in creating your own tree of remembrance you can download the 17-day Trail to the TreeEaster devotional for free by signing up and navigating to the “Free Tools” section of the website.
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Danielle Ayers Jones has been a contributing writer for the online magazine, Ungrind, and has written for Thriving Family, Clubhouse, Jr., Radiant, and Relevant. She also combines her love of writing and photography on her blog, www.danielleayersjones.com. It’s a space where she seeks to find beauty in everyday places, joy in hardship, and encouragement in unexpected places. Danielle currently lives in Maryland with her husband and three children. You can follow her on Twitter @daniajones.