My parents had just become Jesus-followers when I was little, the first in their families … or at least the first in their families in a long time. I have a very early memory – three or four years old, maybe – of the two of them making a pile of vinyl records with frightening covers and other paraphernalia, and I asked them what they were doing.
“These things we have don’t honor Jesus,” I remember my mom answering. “And,” with a smile, “we want our lives to honor Jesus now, so we’re getting rid of all of these.”
There is much from my childhood that worked like that: my parents embracing what it meant to live a new life with Jesus, and courageously working to identify old, unhealthy patterns – patterns of thought, of habit, of tradition, of interaction – and replace them with patterns that would draw them closer to Jesus and would demonstrate his love.This was a messy, highly visible process, and the old and the new clashed often in our house.
Holidays were a perfect display of this transition. Having grown up without meaningful spiritual traditions, my mom set out on a quest to learn how to replace the unhealthy holidays of the past with a new kind of legacy for me and my sisters, a legacy that would leverage holidays as creative vehicles for drawing us closer to each other and closer to Jesus. When we were with extended family, we were aware of the almost-awkward, yet somehow-comforting differences between us when it came to these holidays… and aware also of the easy opportunity for conversation that our new traditions provided.
As a mom now myself, leaning hard into following Jesus and keenly aware of the fleeting moments we have left to shape our teenagers, I’m so grateful for this heritage of intentional traditions that she gifted me – and I have embraced the challenge of building on them. It never ends up looking quite the way I plan – and I rarely live up to my own intentions. Prayer and intentionality are powerful though – and over the years their imprint can look like some great ideas.
So, from our house to yours, here are just a few of the ways the Zinns have found to make Easter Meaningful:
One of the most beloved ways that we prepare our hearts for Easter in our home is by celebrating a Christian Passover – usually on the same night when Jesus and his disciples would have celebrated it. The Bible declares Jesus to be our Passover Lamb (1 Cor 5:7). Walking through the story and the remembrance of the Exodus, with Jesus as the capstone of the story has been priceless to us.
A Passover meal, even with only family, can be an elaborate affair requiring a couple of hours. You may want to begin thinking it through and planning a week or so ahead – and you can think about including your friends, neighbors, small group if you want! We have never had one without guests.
If you want to run through it with us this year before trying it on your own, we might be able to do that! Let us know!
Here are the materials we use: http://www.crivoice.org/haggadah.html. There are instructions outlined at the beginning – and then the actual script begins at “Beginning of the Seder”. And you can find Passover menu ideas all over the internet!
We celebrate our Passover dinner by clearing out the living room, spreading out towels and tablecloths on the carpet and eating on the floor like Jesus and his disciples would have. Because what kid can resist eating on the floor?!
Note: There have been expressions of concern about cultural appropriation when Christians practice Passover. Concerns about appropriation can be very valid. Passover, however, is a biblical celebration that belongs to Jesus-followers as much as to Jews. For various reasons (including prejudice), Christians neglected much of our Old Testament heritage for centuries – and one cannot help but wonder if the “Christian” church might have valued and treated the Jewish people completely differently over the centuries, avoiding the atrocities committed in Jesus’ name, if the Church had honored its Old Testament heritage.
2. Watch a Movie
No – I’m not telling you to have your family do an annual viewing of Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ. Once was more than enough for me. And I tend not to be a huge fan of lots of Christian movies. HOWEVER, there are two that are tremendously impactful and that I really love. We have used Easter weekend as an opportunity for all of us to watch one or the other of these together:
St. John in Exile. This one-man stage-play stars a masterful Dean Jones as the disciple John on the Island of Pa
tmos. Doesn’t matter how many times I’ve seen it, it always chokes me up and fills me with joy.
End of the Spear. This award-winning film tells one of my favorite missionary stories and provides a perfect way to prepare for Easter by reflecting on the powerful transformation that Jesus brings to us through the cross – and on our call to share his love with others!
3. Throw a Party!
Seriously, Easter is the biggest deal there is for Jesus-people! Paul reminded us in that:
“If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins…. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead.” 1 Corinthians 15:17&19
And so we get to declare:
“‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!” 1 Corinthians 15:55-56.
Your church – or the church near you! – is throwing a party, for sure! Jump in and volunteer to help them make it happen — and invite a bunch of party-goers to come with you, while you’re at it.
At Easter, people will be more responsive than at almost any other time of year to an invitation to join you at church – and while they are there, they will hear the message of Jesus and will have an opportunity to encounter him. What a gift! If you don’t have a home church and are in the Tacoma area, you should DEFINITELY join us at our much-loved Discovery Community Church!
And you know what will make them even more likely to respond positively to that invitation? When you can follow it with an invitation to a potluck Easter dinner at your home afterwards! Nothing says “I care about you and you’re my friend not my project” like an invitation to your home.
Invite your guests to bring some candy-filled eggs to contribute to an egg hunt for the kids – and, no matter how old the kids are, you can use these Resurrection Eggs at the end of the egg hunt to help the kids tell the story of Jesus’ death & resurrection. We do this every year – and we’ve had kids in on the hunt who had NEVER heard this story!! An extra little prize for each Resurrection Egg found will make it especially fun!
4. Make space for Jesus to create meaning for YOU!
So this one is last – but it’s the piece on which all the rest of these ideas depend. All this talk of meaning and fun is not to deny for an instant that holidays can be exhausting, stressful, disappointing, even sad.
Your best shot at creating meaning during the Easter season for your family and community? Intentionally making space to allow Jesus to create meaning for you.
I have to stop right here. If you do not have a relationship with Jesus that is real and personal, it all starts there. I don’t mean you know about him, or that you’ve been a decent person, or that you’ve walked through churchy rituals. I mean that you share his heart. If you haven’t ever started that journey – or you walked away from it – this article is a beautiful description of how to take those steps.
Nothing you do for your family will matter nearly as much as the person that you are. Building meaning for your family or community will just turn into more expectations and pressure and busy-ness — unless Jesus himself is supplying your strength and compassion and joy. And over and over, he does exactly that when we take some quiet moments and read and reflect on his words to us in the Bible. Here are some thoughts:
The Passion in the Gospels: Did you know that the writers of the Gospels devoted between 25-40% of their Gospels entirely to the last week of Jesus’ life, his death and resurrection? Those chapters are Matthew 21-28, Mark 11-16, Luke 19-24, John 12-20. You could sit in just those passages for all of Lent if you wanted, but they also each read like a beautiful and compelling story. Take the weeks leading up to Easter to read them out loud with your family – OR invite a few people who aren’t Jesus-people to join you for a couple of times prior to Easter to explore Jesus. I have been surprised a few times at how willing people have been to do this with me!
Peter’s First Easter, by Walter Wangerin, Jr.: Scripture is a limitless mine that will enrich us again and again, and your children can certainly engage directly with the Scripture tellings of Holy Week. We also have LOVED this book with our kids. This 48-page book is comprised of 10 beautifully illustrated chapters, and we would read a chapter each night leading up to Easter. As an added treat, when you read about Jesus washing his disciples’ feet, pull out a bowl of water and share an intimate moment washing your family’s feet! The kids are older now, but we still read it sometimes, because every time I get to the end, my heart cries out: “I LOVE JESUS!!”
Here’s the deal, friend: If you do NOTHING else of these ideas this Easter, do THIS. Make time to hear from Jesus, to let him shape your heart.
Remember: Nothing you do for your family or community will matter nearly as much as the person you are.
A Final Note:
Life is full of seasons. Not just the holidays, but the rhythms of different stages of kids and work and life. These are ideas, not expectations. Your job – and mine – is to build meaning and joy that fit with the place in life that God has us NOW. This means it’s an ever-changing journey, full of creativity and adventure. So get rid of any sense of pressure – and welcome the meaning of this particular place, this particular season.
And because the journey is ever-changing, I’d love to hear about the ways YOU create meaning at Easter!