Monday, April 14, 2014

Beautiful Easter

Do you remember waking early on Easter, just like Christmas, and hunting down small plastic eggs filled with jelly beans?

Do you remember plastic fake grass? And large chocolate bunnies disappearing ear by ear, bite by bite?

Nick and I think carefully about how we're shaping our kids' understanding of following Christ and worshipping him. Both of us tend towards satisfying, joyful celebrations. Birthdays have cake, you know? And heaven is described as a marriage feast -- a truly joyful time with lots of great food!

But what to do with Easter? Mingled death and resurrected life are horrifically beautiful. Terrific seems to be a good word, derived from terrible yet meaning extremely good.

Can chocolate bunnies, plastic eggs, and a treasure hunt capture and communicate well Jesus' death, resurrection, and the forgiveness of humanity?

Well, no! There are plenty of plastic eggs, candies, and other celebrations of springtime around our house and library book bag. When it comes to Easter and the story of what Jesus did, I've been struggling to find appropriate images.


In the minds of young children, image can be equal to truth. This is even more true of moving images (animation and film) for adults and children as Jack Zipes has written about in Breaking the Disney Spell. How do you feel about truth when you can touch and hold an object? Hard to separate facts and legends, isn't it?

photo credit:

Currently, we separate our springtime learning from our Easter learning. Did you know the word "Easter" comes from the German word for the holiday, Ostern? It simply means East and is related to sunrise. Apparently, some missionaries did a poor job of translating the celebration of Jesus' death and resurrection from Latin to German. The French Pâques from Hebrew Pesach (Passover) is much clearer, but Resurrection Day has the clearest meaning in English. I'll let non-Christians continue using Easter with their bunnies and candies, and maybe I'll try out Resurrection Day with the kids.

We retell the Resurrection story by reading both adult and children's Bibles.

We also made our own version of Resurrection Eggs with 12. There are lots of versions online, even some 40 day ones for older kids so that the eggs are opened as a Lenten Calendar (like a daily Advent Calendar). Here's another DIY example. This is what we include, with small slips of paper explaining the item and Scripture references:

  1. Palm branch piece and mini donkey (really a horse) figure, for Palm Sunday
  2. Cotton ball with perfume, for Mary's anointing of Jesus' feet
  3. 3 Dimes, for Judas' 30 temple silver coins
  4. Piece of saltine cracker, for the Passover meal Jesus shared with the disciples
  5. Small cross, for the one Jesus carried and died upon
  6. Piece of thorny barberry branch, for the crown of thorns
  7. Small nail and toothpick, for the nails and spear that pierced Jesus
  8. Dice, for the lots soldiers cast to divide Jesus' clothes
  9. Bit of cloth, for the vinegar Jesus drank on the cross
  10. Spices like whole cloves, anise, nutmeg, for the spices the women brought to the tomb
  11. Stone, for the tomb's door
  12. Empty, with a smile face sticker and dove sticker, for our new life in Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit that came
Not as cuddly as a fuzzy chick or bunny stuffed animal. But these items are important in helping our kids retell the story of Jesus' death and resurrection by themselves... many they touch gingerly, or don't want to be near because they know how awful the sharp points could feel!


Years ago, my friend Molly gave me vintage sheep figures for Christmas. I have a fondness for sheep and someday dream of having a small flock for spinning and knitting their wool. Molly knows me well. These sheep are our table centerpiece as we approach Good Friday and Resurrection Day. But wouldn't you know, I've been looking for more sheep. Not the cuddly kind, or a cartoonish kind of knick knack. Something that is beautifully crafted, maybe ceramic or porcelain. Almost every retailer carries all kinds of bunny or chick table decor, plates, and platters... but no lambs! Their catalogs feature racks of lamb on the table, ready to be eaten... but no other lambs! One exception in a lamb platter at Crate and Barrel, but otherwise no lambs in stores. Maybe that's how it should be: a carved up dead lamb, instead of a pretty porcelain one. Jesus the paschal lamb, broken and dead in our place, and beautiful in resurrected glory. It's terrific, terrible and beautifully wondrous at the same time.

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