This week, millions will celebrate one of two different Biblical holidays. Whether you celebrate one or both, we’ll talk about ways to make them more meaningful to your children.
Regardless of denomination, Resurrection Sunday – more commonly known as Easter – is central to the Christian faith.
The Sunday morning following Jesus’ crucifixion, everything changed! And two women were the first to know about it. On their way to anoint His body with spices, they debated who would roll away the stone that blocked the entrance to His grave. Apparently, they had forgotten about the guards, who had been ordered not to let anyone have access to the tomb, under penalty of death…
Mark 16:4-6 gives us a recap: “And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away, although it was extremely large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting at the right, wearing a white robe, and they were amazed. And he said to them, ‘Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him.’”
As they departed with fear and joy, they ran into Jesus Himself. To this day, Easter is the most celebrated day in Christianity.
The Ongoing Swirl of Controversy
From the beginning, this day was also marked with controversy.
The guards, who had passed out when the stone was rolled away, came to and reported to the authorities… who made up a grand story about how His disciples came and stole Him by night. I’m pretty sure the guards bought into this to save their own skin.
Today, the controversy is this: are you celebrating Resurrection Sunday or Easter?
You see, the word Easter is not a Biblical term. Many say it is a pagan term derived from the goddess Eastre, the same as Astarte – or Ashtoreth of the Old Testament. Ashtoreth was called the goddess of love and increase, and was worshipped as a fertility goddess. She was celebrated on the day of the spring equinox – the beginning of spring.
The rabbit is also vital in this celebration because of its fertility (“multiply like rabbits”). And the painted egg was a symbol of life. The more beautiful the egg, supposedly the more pleased Ashtoreth would be, and thus she would be more predisposed to give increase.
There’s also a new argument that the roots of the word Easter don’t go back to the goddess Eastre. Some say it more likely stems from a German root for dawn or east (time and place of the rising sun).
I haven’t had time to research it enough to form an opinion. At any rate, it seems appropriate to tell your children that eggs and rabbits and the term Easter are not from the Bible, but are traditions of men… if you don’t want them quizzing you (or grilling you!) ten years from now.
Make It Meaningful
Here are 11 traditions you can implement to make Resurrection Sunday more meaningful:
1. Devotions focused on the events of the week. Reading John 13 through John 21 (one chapter each day) is a good choice.
2. Act out some of the scenes from John 13 – 21. Children learn visually and acting can help bring the narrative to life.
3. Bake your own pretzels. Pretzels were an early Lenten treat, designed in the form of arms crossed in prayer. Share that with them, and they’ll never look at pretzels as “just” a food again.
4. Read about Jonah. Jesus points to the story of Jonah as a sign of His own destiny.
5. We usually associate gift-giving with Christmas. But in this season when Christians celebrate the sacrificial giving of Jesus’ life in their place, giving is especially in order. Find ways to give unconditionally – giving treats to those in nursing homes, clothes to children in other countries…
6. Foot washing. Read John 13. Then wrap a towel around your waist like Jesus did, and wash your children’s feet. This simple act of service could change their lives forever.
7. Sing old hymns about the crucifixion and Resurrection together.
8. Watch Campus Crusade’s superbly crafted evangelical movie scripted directly from the gospel of Luke at http://jesusfilmmedia.org/1_
9. Attend Good Friday services.
10. Greet each other with the traditional “Hallelujah, the Lord is risen!,” and answer “He is risen indeed!”
11. Celebrate Passover – the second great holiday of the week. Every year, more and more Christians celebrate Passover – the feast observing the departure of the Israelites from slavery, detailed in Exodus 12.
Jesus had actually come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, and was crucified on the day of Passover. That’s why He’s called the Passover Lamb. In large part, that’s where the Christian tradition of Communion originates.
This is the bridge between the Old and New Testaments. It is the central theme of the entire Bible.
How to Celebrate Passover
In 2015, Passover begins on the evening of Friday, April 3 – Good Friday. (All Jewish holidays begin at sundown.) It ends the evening of Saturday, April 11.
And did you know that Passover was expressly intended for your children’s benefit?
Exodus 12:24 says, “And you shall observe this event as an ordinance for you and your children forever.” Verse 46 says it is be eaten in a single house.
And no wonder… it is a precious retelling of an incredible story. And everyone knows how much kids like stories!
At least four times, fathers were commanded to tell the story of the Exodus to their children. Obviously, it was important that this story be passed on.
I won’t go into every detail of the traditional celebration. If you’re interested in complete instructions, get a copy of the book Celebrating Biblical Feasts by Martha Zimmerman. I bought a copy years ago, and it is lovingly worn out!
Or find a group near you that sponsors a Passover Seder (dinner). The symbolism throughout the entire evening is stunningly rich.
In the Old Testament, leaven symbolized sin. So, during Passover, they were to completely clean ALL leaven out of their homes. They cleaned, scoured, and scrubbed anything and everything that might have had contact with leaven. The Jewish ceremony for cleaning out the leaven occurs in the evening of the day before Passover.
Here are a few other symbols from the Seder to contemplate:
- Parsley – they dipped it in salt water to symbolize how God led them safely across the Red Sea (salt water) and how they became a new nation (green vegetable).
- Passover Lamb – symbolic of the instructions to kill a lamb and wipe some of the drained blood across the top and side doorposts of the house they’d be eating in. Those homes with blood around the doors were spared when the Lord killed the first-born Egyptian males.
- Bitter herbs (horseradish) – symbolic of the slavery and misery the Jews suffered in Egypt.
- Charoseth – coarsely chopped fruit and spices; its color is similar to the clay or mortar the Israelites made in Egypt.
- Wine – symbolizes joy.
There’s far too much symbolism to detail it all here. If you’re interested in going deeper – and if you have older children, I definitely recommend it – check out the resources mentioned above.