1 Peter 1:3-4 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade–kept in heaven for you…” (NIV)
My son and I were at the drugstore when he noticed a bunch of big Easter baskets perched high on a shelf. The store manager had placed them there while the employees where moving out the Valentine’s merchandise.
With great excitement he exclaimed, “I want one of those, Mommy, pleeeese!” The colorful baskets wrapped in shiny cellophane and filled with chocolate eggs, a fluffy white bunny and assorted toys was very enticing to my four year old. Then he said something that stopped me dead in my tracks. “Mommy, Easter is when the Easter Bunny comes.” “What did you just say?” I asked him. “Easter is when the Easter Bunny comes,” he repeated. Oh no, I thought. This is NOT good. I didn’t want him to think that an overgrown bunny bringing baskets of candy and eggs is what Easter is about. It was time for him to learn that Easter isn’t about the Bunny, it’s about the Lamb.
Setting the Record Straight
Many people are not aware that Easter has its roots in pagan religions. Hundreds of years before Christ appeared, Easter was celebrated as a festival honoring pagan fertility gods and the coming of spring. In fact the word “Easter” is the English translation of “Eostre” which is the name of an ancient Saxon fertility goddess. According to church historians, it wasn’t until the second century that the rituals of these pagan festivals were altered and incorporated into a celebration of Christ’s resurrection.
Today, when many Christians celebrate “Easter” their intention is that it be a celebration of Christ’s resurrection. Yet with the growing trend toward secularizing Easter, many Christians are finding it difficult to keep their children from being influenced. This was the case with our son. One of the things we have done to combat this pressure is to start referring to Easter as Resurrection Sunday. We feel that by calling it by a Biblical name that it will help us keep a spiritual focus.
Recounting the Story
An important part of our Resurrection celebration is the recounting of the Resurrection story. Because our son is young we have decided to read the story to him from his children’s Bible and use puppets to re-enact the event.
If your children are old enough to comprehend more detailed information about the resurrection, they might enjoy doing a Bible study. Have them read the following passages and make notes on what they learn.
Starting the Friday before Resurrection Sunday, read about the Last Supper and the betrayal of Jesus. Luke 22: 7-54. Then read the Crucifixion account. Matthew 26: 47 through 27: 55
On Sunday read about the Resurrection: Matthew 27: 57 through 28: 10
Send the Bunny Packing
Since we wanted the Lamb of God to be the center of our Resurrection celebration, we decided to give the Easter Bunny his walking papers. We wanted our son to understand that this celebration is about Christ and not a floppy-eared rabbit. By eliminating the Bunny we can then focus his attention on Christ, where it rightfully belongs.
Keep it Fun
Easter, especially in America, has become very commercialized. Stores carry Easter baskets filled with chocolate eggs, peeps (marshmallow chicks) and fluffy stuffed animals as early as the week after Valentine’s Day. The appeal of these secular items is that they are fun.
When we made the decision to do away with the Easter Bunny we didn’t want to do away with the fun. Our intention was to emphasize the real reason for the holiday. So we decided to incorporate activities that were fun while at the same time teaching the Resurrection story.
Because children learn not only from verbal instruction but also from what they see and experience we decided to do some hands-on lessons. On the Saturday evening before Resurrection Sunday we thought it would be fun to spend some family time making Resurrection Cookies and Resurrection Rolls.
Make it Memorable
Symbols are a great way to enhance the teaching process. Instead of giving our son an “Easter Basket” we decided to give him a “Resurrection Basket” filled with things that relate to the Resurrection Story. If you are interested in doing this, below are a few examples of what you might put in a basket:
- a small stuffed lamb (Jesus the Lamb of God)
- a chocolate cross
- candy “stones” (similar to jelly beans) that represent the rock that rolled was rolled away from the tomb
- a packet of seeds to represent the new life that Christ offers
- bubbles to represent the angel that heralded “He has Risen” to the women at the tomb (Matthew 28:5-6).
- Christian coloring books
- a Christian Children’s books about the Resurrection
- the Resurrection Story on Video or DVD
Another thing we plan to do is make our own homemade version of the popular Resurrection Eggs and have an egg hunt. This activity is similar to a conventional egg hunt but instead of hiding hard-boiled eggs you hide twelve plastic eggs filled with scriptures and items that represent different stages of the Resurrection story. After they are all retrieved, you open each egg and discuss the scriptures and the contents.
For centuries Christians have given eggs as a symbol of the new life that Christ offers. Today this symbol is still used to teach children about the greatest gift, salvation through Jesus Christ.
If your children enjoy coloring eggs try this idea. Decorate your eggs (the hard-boiled kind) by drawing Resurrection symbols and sayings on the eggs with crayons before you color them. Then when you dip them in dye, the wax resists the dye and your images show through. Some examples of sayings you can write on your eggs are: “He has Risen!”, “Lamb of God”, “He Lives” and “New Life”. Some symbols are: a cross, a lamb, and an empty tomb.
You could also have a scavenger hunt using a list of articles that represent the resurrection. Children can fill their list from things they find at home.
Celebrating the Resurrection should be about the joy and excitement of Christ’s victory over death, not about a bunny that delivers eggs and candy. I hope you’ll try some of these ideas or create traditions of your own. After all, Easter isn’t about the Bunny it’s all about the Lamb.
About the author: Martha Matthews is a wife, mother, home manager and the Executive Director of Christian-Homemaking.com, a web site with resources dedicated to helping Christian homemakers succeed. She also has a popular free monthly newsletter for Christian wives called The Wives of Excellence Newsletter. To subscribe visit http://www.christian-homemaking.com/newsletter.html