When I look ahead and think to myself, what specifically about the Christian faith do I want my children to leave home with? The obvious answer is their salvation. But beyond that, what do I hope they carry with them?
The answer is simple...I want them to leave home with an understanding of how the Gospel is part of their daily life as a Christian, not just for their moment of salvation, but for their everyday walk. How does it change how they view themselves, how they view the world, how they view joy, victory, pain, and sorrow?
This God we serve, this Jesus, is meant to completely permeate every inch of our lives. Easter is not just about the facts that Jesus died and rose again. If the facts stay facts, and have no bearing on our every day life, we are missing the abundant life that Jesus offers.
This week, this Easter, my heart has been heavy with those in my path who have experienced loss and experienced the deep pains of this world. I found myself asking God to show me what Good Friday and what Easter Sunday means when people are walking through intense suffering. How does this Gospel impact even suffering?
Often, we speak Christian cliché’s when someone experiences tragedy or suffering in their life. "Trust the Lord." "God is in control." "They are in heaven with Jesus." "God is still good."
Are these things true? Absolutely, yes, But from experience, when you are walking through a season of difficulty or you have experienced incredible loss, those statements are often more painful than helpful, at least at the time. Instead, people need to know what the power of the resurrection means for their pain, what it means when they wake up again tomorrow and realize the suffering wasn't a dream.
If you are walking through the pain of this broken world, I pray that you know deep in your soul, deep in your heart, that this is not how God created life to be. I’ve sat with friends, experiencing incredible loss, and comfort is found in that truth. I myself have walked through darkness and found that this comfort was the only thing at times that kept me moving along... that this is NOT how God created this world to be. Sometimes in the sleepless, dark filled night, that truth is the only thing that calms the anxiety.
If you are walking through suffering, remember, you were never created to experience pain like this. You were never created to experience death, loss, pain, and tragedy. You were not created to experience the life-altering devastation of losing a loved one, of experiencing illness, of feeling the weight of broken relationships. This is not what you were made for. There is comfort in that because if we know life was not supposed to be this way, we know from God’s Word, that it won’t remain this way… and that’s where that small beacon of hope still remains lit in our hearts, even on the darkest of days.
It reminds me of Good Friday…that space between the cross and the empty tomb… that dark, empty space- after hope left, but before grace came, before Jesus' resurrection took place. I imagine Jesus’ friends- confused, dark, lonely, afraid, shaken to the core… “Is Jesus who He says He is? But He said he would be King and now He’s dead?” The confusion. The despair. The questions. The fears. The loss of hope. That space between the cross and the empty tomb is where I imagine it feels like you still are.
But I want to tell you dear one…that the dark, empty, hopeless space between the cross and the empty tomb is no longer there! That’s the significance of Easter. That’s what Easter has to do with the tragedies we experience today. That’s what Easter has to do with the loss of loved ones, with terrible illness, with broken relationships. That’s what Easter has to do with our life when the brokenness of this world crashes down our front door and changes everything we ever knew.
You see, without Easter Sunday, we are stuck in the despairing pit between the cross and the empty tomb…that dark space where our tragedy and pain causes us to be uncertain, the pain that makes us question if God is who He says He is, that space where we question everything we ever learned about Jesus. That’s the dark empty space of Good Friday.
But friends, Sunday is coming! It’s because of this Sunday, that your pain right now, has hope of relief, has hope of redemption. You see, because You are dearly loved by Jesus, because you are His own, you have the joy of what comes on Sunday. Without this Easter Sunday you would remain camped in that hopeless space, just trying to find a way to make it through the rest of your life. But that’s not you, that’s not us, because we have a RISEN Savior. Easter is not just about Jesus dying on the cross, because if He just died on the cross, we would still be stuck in that dark, hopeless pit, with fear and uncertainty. Jesus’ death is only significant if He rose again, which He did!!
If Friday happened, but Sunday never came, there would be no hope. No immediate relief. No future full relief. But Sunday DID happen, and that’s where everything changes. Sunday, is where everything changes.
I am reminded of a hymn from childhood...
I serve a risen Savior, He’s in the world today. I know that He is with me, whatever men may say. I see His hand of mercy, I hear his voice of cheer, and just the time I need Him, He’s always near. He lives! He lives! Christ Jesus lives today. He walks with me and talks with me, along life’s narrow way. He lives! He lives! Salvation to impart. You ask me how I know He lives. He lives, within my heart.
And that, dear ones, is why there is hope…
But...no, it does not mean there won’t be pain.
In my experiences with some groups of Christianity, it has angered me to hear the ways some speak of pain. People falsely claim that because they believe in God, because they have hope, that they will be shielded from harm, and if it finds them it will not hurt too badly. Equally insidious is the false claim that if pain finds you it is evidence of a failure in your beliefs. That is a lie that I think we may sometimes tell ourselves so that we can feel like we are in control, that an unexpected tragedy could be avoided with effort. But I do not believe at all, that this is the message we were intended to hear. It is NOT the message of Jesus, and it is NOT the message of Easter Sunday- the pinnacle of our Christian faith.
Life is full of beautiful people, believing in God, yet experiencing dire pain. No, our lives will not be absent of pain, but the way we process that pain is what will be different, because we know there is an Easter Sunday. Friends, we don’t remain in the hopeless pit of that empty space between the cross and the tomb. We process pain differently because grace came… because Sunday came. Jesus came! He rose! He conquered!
No, no, no- your faith and beliefs cannot change your odds. It doesn’t hedge your bets, and it doesn’t build up a buffer zone that will keep life’s brokenness from finding you. BUT, it can shape your perspective on the narrative of your life. In I Thessalonians 4:13, we are told, “We do not want you to be uninformed brothers about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others who have no hope.”
Maybe this Easter you are experiencing the full weight of a very broken world, but be encouraged that Easter Sunday is coming, and because of Easter we have some present day relief, with the hope of complete and full future relief when God restores everything back to the way it was supposed to be! That’s what Jesus’ resurrection means! His resurrection is guarantee that one day we will experience FULL relief from the pain of this world. That it will all be restored and made right again.
So in the deepest parts of your hearts, where it hurts the most, continue to remind yourself that life is not supposed to be this way. We were not created to experience pain like this. We were not created to experience death. You were never meant to carry the weight of the tragedies in this world. God did not create the world and life to be this way. And, one day, He is returning, but not as a humble, gentle baby this time, like we celebrate on Christmas day. This time, he is coming as a Warrior, coming to complete His rescue mission, coming to make everything right again. One day, the pain of losing loved ones, the pain of illness, the pain of broken relationships, and the all the pains of this world, will be made right. And so.... we have HOPE.
I pray dear friends, that you see a new sweetness to the significance of Easter Sunday. That God comforts you in a way you have never dreamed possible. That He not only comforts you here and now, but that He reminds you of the FULL restorative comfort that IS to come, that WILL come, that you are GUARANTEED, all because He rose again. His resurrection is your assurance that ALL of life will one day be restored, including every ounce of the suffering you experience today.
What is Easter Advent?
Spring weather is finally peaking its head out and with that, comes preparing for the celebration of Easter. Christmas is the birth of Jesus, when God sent the Redeemer to mankind. But, Easter is the pinnacle of the Christian faith when Jesus died and rose again! Why then does it seem like we do so much at Christmas, but seem to drop the ball at Easter? After all, if the baby King born in a manger didn't die, and rise again, what kind of god are we following?
Easter should be the highlight, the pinnacle of the Christian church, and sadly often times, it is not. In theory and in discussion, yes. But in practice? Usually not. Christmas, the birth of Jesus, outshines Easter by far, but, what is Christmas without Easter? Many times Christians associate Easter with dressy, uncomfortable outfits, an array of the pastel colors purple, pink, yellow, blue, and green, the "secular" celebrations of baskets and easter bunnies, all culminating with an extra special visit to church on Easter Sunday where the pastor tries to make the "same old story" about Jesus' death and resurrection somehow new and exciting. That is what used to come to mind when I thought of the Christian church and Easter. But, over the last many years, we've watched our family celebrations change and watched many Christians and churches begin to celebrate, to really celebrate, and it has been fantastic to see. Jesus is nothing close to being a "same old story."
I heard a writer say it like this, "It seems like Easter should be a military celebration, a Roman Triumph, a victory parade. Torches burning, bands blaring, pigs roasting on a spit. The God-Man has destroyed our last enemy, death, and has utterly triumphed over every foe. I don’t know quite what this should look like, but I do like what Robert Louis Wilken wrote in First Things:
If Christ is culture, let the sidewalks be lit with fire on Easter Eve, let traffic stop for a column of Christians waving palm branches on a spring morning, let streets be blocked off as the faithful gather for a Corpus Christi procession. Then will others know that there is another city in their midst, another commonwealth, one that has its face, like the face of angels, turned toward the face of God.
If we want our children to see, know, and understand Easter for what it is... a glorious, triumphant celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus, then we must change how we approach it. It's not just a fancy Sunday that happens once a year, with an after church Easter egg hunt with the grandparents. If we want to present our children with a God they long to follow, a God that captivates their hearts and minds, a God that they see and know as being as awe-inspiring as He truly is, then we can't just give them culture's idea of Easter.
So what does this mean? What does this even look like? Well, that's up to you! It doesn't mean you have to go all out, create all kinds of crafts, and activities. The way you cultivate an Easter celebration in your family will not look exactly like someone else's. Maybe it's intentionally reading through the events of Easter with your kids during Holy Week, while another family sets up an Easter tree, does resurrection eggs, and crafts. Maybe you spend Maundy Thursday doing a family service project in your community while sharing the good news that Jesus is alive and active! Maybe it's taking a quiet, reflective hike with your family on Good Friday, talking and discussing with your kids what it would be like if Jesus never came and rose again?
Here's an Easter Advent that our family works through during Holy Week (Palm Sunday through Easter Sunday) every year. Please feel free to use it or adapt for your family.
Each day has a reading from a story Bible, an Easter egg to open with a trinket that goes along with the story, and a picture ornament that also goes along with the story. Both the trinket and picture will be hung on the Easter tree, much like a Christmas advent Jesse Tree that hangs ornaments from the Bible stories leading up to the birth of Jesus. You can right click the Easter pics below and "save image as" and then print. We hole punched the top and made ornaments. Our Easter tree is simply branches from outside stuck in a heavy vase.
The following items are used in the Easter Holy Week Advent that I've prepared, but they can easily be read using other sources by matching up the Biblical stories. We use multiple resources because some story Bibles don't include all the events of Holy Week, or one might explain an event better than another. You can always read the events straight from the Bible as well.
Resurrection Eggs- We adapted these to fit the Holy Week readings we chose. Use however you'd like.
The Jesus Storybook Bible
The Gospel Story Bible
The Ology by Marty Machoswki
The initial plan below is geared more towards the young child. The adaptations we use with our older kids is also listed.
Day 1- The Triumphant Entry (Sunday, April 14th)
Day 2- Jesus Cleanses the Temple (Monday, April 15th)
Day 3- Jesus Washes the Apostles Feet (Tuesday, April 16th)
Day 4- The Last Supper (Wednesday, April 17th)
Day 5- The Garden of Gethsemane (Thursday, April 18th)
Day 6- The Crucifixion of Jesus (Friday, April 19th)
Day 7- The Burial of Jesus and Darkness Covers the Land (Saturday, April 20th)
Day 8- The Resurrection (Sunday, April 21st)
However you choose to celebrate, find what works for your family and celebrates King Jesus! The focus is not on having the best Pinterest inspired Easter activities or becoming so stressed over the advent prep that it takes away from the purpose all together. If you have a house full of littles and doing the resurrection eggs, the Easter tree, and the readings is too much right now? Don't feel badly. Do what you can, where you can, and enjoy giving your kids a celebratory glimpse of our risen Jesus!
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