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If Thanksgiving sits in the shadow of Christmas, then Easter is the redheaded stepchild of them all.
It’s ironic, really, how little time, money, or effort we expend to mark the single most significant event in history—the resurrection of Jesus Christ. How many of us decorate the house for Easter, shop for months, or cook for weeks leading up to the day?
Oh, we may buy the traditional new Easter outfit, especially if we live in the South, or maybe a pastel-colored bow tie to go with that seersucker suit. We may gather with family to eat the spiral-sliced ham and potato salad after sunrise service at church. Some even wear ashes on their foreheads at the beginning of Lent or attend a Maundy Thursday service as the day approaches.
But do we truly stop to ponder, pray, and prepare our hearts to celebrate the day that changed history forever? Or are we so busy taking a deep breath after Christmas that we miss out on the chance to trace the path from the cradle to the cross?
If you’d like to approach Easter in a more intentional and thoughtful way, here are a few suggestions.
1. Read an Easter Book During the Lenten Period
A quick search on Amazon will show you many from which to choose. Two classics are Max Lucado’s And the Angels were Silent and Six Hours One Friday. A newer book and companion video worth considering is Adam Hamilton’s, 24 Hours that Changed the World. His publisher, Abington Press, describes the book this way: “Relive the one day that changed the course of events forever. Drawing on insights from history, archaeology, geography, and the Bible, Hamilton invites you to experience Jesus' final hours through story and video. As you ‘visit’ the Holy Land sites where those earth-shaking events took place, you'll discover a deeper understanding of Jesus' sacrifice.”
If you prefer a daily online devotion, Bible Gateway publishes a Lent devotional every year on its website.
2. Have Family Lenten Devotions
SEE ALSO: Why Lent is Relevant Today
Noel Piper, wife of theologian John Piper, describes her family’s Lenten tradition this way in a blog post called “Holy Week at the Pipers’”:
“During the season, we have special devotional readings called Lenten Lights, Eight Biblical Devotions to Prepare for Easter each Sunday. Along with the readings, we use candles to help us symbolize what was happening as the world moved toward Jesus’ death.
On the first Sunday of Lent, which would be the sixth Sunday before Easter, seven candles are burning. During the Bible reading, one is snuffed out. The second Sunday’s devotional time begins with six candles burning, and one is snuffed out during the reading, and so on through the weeks. The seventh candle is blown out on Good Friday.
Then on Easter, during the reading, all the candles are lit. At our house, the candles are the centerpiece for all our table gatherings on Easter.”
SEE ALSO: I Failed at Lent
For the Piper family, the seven candles symbolize Jesus, the Light of the World. As the family moves through the Lenten season, snuffing out candles one by one until all are dark on Good Friday, Satan, symbolized by the darkness, has apparently won.
But NO! On Easter morning, resurrection morning, the Light has returned victorious and brighter than ever. The seven blazing candles of their dinner table centerpiece testify to this with a visible circle of heavenly brightness.
Ann Voskamp, New York Times Bestselling author of 10,000 Gifts, also uses candles to mark the 40 days before Easter. Her family lights a small candle each day during Advent, increasing in number until a 40-candle wreath blazes during their devotional reading time.
Voskamp also offers an Easter devotional, The Trail to the Tree, to subscribers of her blog, A Holy Experience. It’s free to download and includes prints of master artwork depicting scenes from Christ’s final days on earth.
Each evening during Lent, after reading a selection from her devotional, a family member cuts out one of the artwork scenes and attaches it to a bare branch they call The Jesus Tree. By the time Easter arrives, the branch is covered with scenes of Christ’s Passion.
If your family enjoys drama and adventure, you’ll want to order the book Amon’s Adventure by Arnold Ytreeide. A companion to the popular Advent devotional books Jotham’s Journey and Tabitha’s Trials, Amon’s Adventures is a full-color, read-aloud that tells the story of a 13-year-old Jewish boy living at the time of Christ. Designed to be read by a parent in less than 15 minutes, each nightly reading ends in a cliffhanger that keeps everyone begging for more and eager to read the next day’s installment.
Here’s a description from Kregel, its publisher: “Thirteen-year-old Amon, the son of Jotham and Tabitha, enjoys playing with his friends but is also eager to join his father in the temple court, where only men are allowed. So when his father is accused of a terrible crime, Amon willingly sacrifices his childhood ways in hope of saving Jotham’s life. Along the way he sees the jubilant crowds that gathered on Palm Sunday, hears the Messiah address the angry mob, is present during the daring betrayal of Judas Iscariot, and witnesses the ultimate sacrifice made on Good Friday.” The book is available online.
When our children were young, we made a set of Resurrection Eggs. We filled a dozen plastic eggs with symbols of the Passion Week we’d made out of modeling clay. (A store-bought version is now available at Family Christian Stores or online.) Each evening before bedtime we’d read the corresponding Bible verse that described the significance of one item. Then a child would open the egg to discover what the object was.
The items included a tiny rooster, a loaf of bread, a crown of thorns, and a stone to symbolize the one that covered the mouth of Jesus’ tomb. The egg we opened on Good Friday held a cross. The one for Saturday held a black snippet of cloth, and the one we reserved for Easter morning was EMPTY, just like the grave. It was a simple way to expose our children to details of the Passion Week.
3. Make Easter Story Cookies on Easter Eve
More than just a sweet treat, these cookies are enlightening and engaging. Each ingredient has special significance in the Easter story, as do the actions that accompany the recipe. Step-by-step instructions that include beating the egg whites and reading the description of Christ’s whipping, crushing the pecans and reading how Christ was bruised for our iniquities, and adding vinegar while reading how soldiers gave Jesus sour wine to drink make the biblical narrative come alive.
The final step, placing the cookies in the oven overnight, paves the way for the triumph of the morning. Children are surprised and delighted when they bite into the cookies to discover they are EMPTY, just like the tomb on that first Easter morning.
There are many ways to approach the Easter season intentionally. These ideas and resources are just a few to get you started. I’m confident that if you seek the Lord prayerfully and do a little homework, you’ll find ways to celebrate that are holy and meaningful. You can begin new traditions or resurrect old ones. Best of all, you’ll honor our risen Savior on this most precious and significant of Christian holidays.
Lori Hatcher is an author, blogger, and women’s ministry speaker. She shares an empty nest in Columbia, South Carolina, with her husband, David, and best dog ever, Winston. She’s the editor of Reach Out, Columbia magazine, and has authored two devotional books, Hungry for God … Starving for Time, Five-Minute Devotions for Busy Women and Joy in the Journey – Encouragement for Homeschooling Moms. You’ll find her pondering the marvelous and the mundane on her blog, Hungry for God. . . Starving for Time. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter (@lorihatcher2) or by email ([email protected]).
Publication date: February 13, 2015