Easter is my favorite holiday. I like it better than Christmas.
I don't do baskets or chocolate bunnies (though I do stock up on chocolate and Cadbury eggs the day after Easter when they're 50 percent off and still 100 percent delicious). I don't care if you do eggs and bunnies--go right ahead. It's just not the reason I like Easter.
For me, Easter is all Jesus--a day brimming with hope and joy. Easter at the Gerhardt house is full of light and fun and laughing. We read the Bible in the backyard bundled in blankets, waiting for the sun to rise. We eat over-the-top meals with friends. We talk a lot about the life-giving work God's doing in our hearts.
For a long time, I wanted to celebrate Easter, but didn't know exactly how. I wanted to do something to acknowledge the power of resurrection in my life. But I didn't grow up doing it, and I didn't know anyone who did.* With no patterns to follow, my husband and I set out to develop our own family traditions. I thought I'd share them with you today, including both why and how we do each thing.
If you'd like to celebrate new life on Easter, here are 6 ways to do it:
1. Watch the sunrise.
There's possibly no better metaphor for resurrection than a rising sun. On Friday and Saturday night Justin and I gather our kids and read the story of Jesus dying on the cross and the disciples putting him in the tomb. It's often emotional, always beautiful. And then, early Sunday morning, the world still wrapped in darkness, we drag our kids into the backyard, sit in the black, and wait. We sing and tell the story of Jesus rising from the dead until finally one of our children notices the first hints of dawn peeking over the horizon.
2. Take a shower and wear something new (or something freshly cleaned).
Taking a cue from the way the Israelites celebrated religious holidays in the Old Testament, my family wears new or freshly laundered clothes on Easter. We do it as a way to embrace the cleansing power of Jesus' sacrifice, to remind ourselves that we've been and are being washed and made new. This doesn't mean we wear fancy clothes; we don't. This year I bought both girls' simple cotton play dresses for $5 each. The point isn't to dress up. The point is to feel new.
3. Worship with God's people.
Just like on the actual day of Jesus' resurrection, we run to the assembly of disciples to share the good news of new life. We don't actually run, but that sounds kinda fun. Maybe your family should do that. My family rides in a car. We meet up with our church family and celebrate the risen Lord. We sing praises to our death-defying Savior. We read living scripture. We're reminded of the even-now power of resurrection in a sermon. And we take communion, the centerpiece of Easter. During this time we acknowledge our bond enabled by Christ's death and resurrection and we together celebrate the hope we have in His life-giving blood.
4. Throw a party.
Each year on Easter we host some sort of get together. We've done an adult egg hunt, a backyard dinner with one long table, white tablecloth, china and candle-light. We usually eat lamb. Whatever we do, it involves people, great food, and meaningful conversation...
- Often, we invite people who have nowhere else to go, people who don't have family in the area, people who might be on the fringes of church life. We figure those are the sorts of people Jesus would invite. Also, we invite friends.
- We usually make a lot of sacrifices in order for dinner to be special, saving up for a month to be able to afford lamb for 20 people. We want the meal to feel like a feast, like something you can't do more than once a year.
- Finally, we encourage on-purpose discussion by providing prompts and encouraging the entire gathering to participate in the same conversation. Usually we ask guests to finish this sentence in a personal way: "Because Jesus died and rose again..." Then, we all listen as each person shares.
5. Go outside.
Spring is a physical reminder of the promise of Jesus' resurrection. Go outside and look at it. Sit under a tree. Walk through a field of bluebonnets. Feel the warming air. Smell the flowers. Appreciate the changing earth, a visible, tangible picture of what Jesus did on Easter Sunday and what God does in our hearts now. Last year my family picked wildflowers. We made bouquets and filled our house with color and life. They lasted for almost two weeks, reminding us all of the joy we shared on Easter.
6. Take time to pray.
On Easter, at the end of the day, I put my kids to sleep, crawl under a blanket on the couch, and pray. That prayer is usually a lot Thanksgiving and a little Please Help. If you're looking for a prompt to center your thoughts on Easter, consider finishing these two starts:
- God I have seen resurrection in my life....
- God I need resurrection in my life...
Begin by identifying the ways God's brought you life in the past or is bringing you to life in the present. Give thanks and praise His power. Next, look for places where you currently need new life. Pray for God to come alive in you.
So that's it, 6 ways to celebrate Easter. I hope you try a few out this year. If you do, let me know. I'd love to hear how it went.
Do you have any Easter traditions to add to the list, ways you embrace and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus? PLEASE, please share in the comments!
* I do not believe Christians are required to celebrate Easter as a special day. I understand and agree with the argument that every Sunday is special, a time to remember Jesus' death and resurrection, an occasion for celebration in the act of communion. The thing is, we don't actually celebrate much, not in my experience. Easter gives me an opportunity to once a year fully and beautifully live out the joy I feel every week.