How can I make Easter more Christ-Centered for my family and me?

Easter Sunday, 2008

I was asked to talk on the subject: How can I make Easter more Christ-centered for my family and me? So, what is Easter? As it is defined in the Bible Dictionary:

Easter: This word occurs only once in the Bible (Acts 12: 4) and then would be better translated passover. The word Easter is from Eastre, a Norse goddess whose pagan festival was observed at the spring equinox. The association of this pagan goddess with the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ was only by adaptation and synthesis. There is no real connection. Jesus, being the Lamb of God, was crucified at passover time and is the true Passover (see 1 Cor. 5: 7). He was raised from the grave on the third day thereafter. It thus became a springtime anniversary, and has come to be called Easter in the Christian world.

Easter has no real connection with Jesus Christ other than denoting the time of year in a familiar vernacular as to when his resurrection occurred.

In the February 2008 issue of Ensign, the question was asked, “How Can I Make Easter more Christ-centered for My Family & Me?” This is an important question since, as I learned from conversations I had as well as research I did online that many saints have mixed feelings about this holiday. Sister Marilyn Wood’s response to the question posed by Ensign draws attention to the heart of the matter:

Several years ago, my husband and I decided we wanted our children to associate Easter with the Savior and His love for them and not necessarily with bunnies, chickens or Easter eggs.

Personally I would have to add Easter dresses, little girls’ hats, handbags and shoes to her list. Oh, and flavored jelly beans. But my worldly concerns are not driven as much by Jesus Christ or Easter as much as by my daughters’ ever growing feet and the warming temperature (at long last). I have learned that many families with young children within the Church celebrate the Spiritual Events of Easter Sunday separately from Easter Bunny visits and Easter Egg hunts. Because sometimes the Easter Bunny and egg hunts overshadow the spiritual significance of the Easter holiday. And sometimes we get caught up in the secular nature of the holiday with its bounty of chocolate and jelly beans to the exclusion of the religious nature.

Easter in many Christian religions has become shorthand to describe the time around the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In a recent press release by the Church, it proclaimed: this Easter weekend The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will join the Christian world in celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Latter-day Saints practice Easter much like the rest of Christianity. They embrace the symbolism of renewal found in nature and expressed in tradition. But something more concrete than symbols and more meaningful than rituals underlies this time of rebirth. The foundation of this season of hope is the literal resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is the “life and the light of the world”

Death. Rebirth. Resurrection.

In the play, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, there is a monologue about death that got me to thinking about resurrection and subsequently, the value and meaning of the atonement:

Whatever became of the moment when one first knew about death?

There must have been one, a moment, in childhood when it first occurred to you that you don’t go on forever. It must have been shattering and stamped into one’s memory. And yet I can’t remember it.

…We must be born with an intuition of mortality. Before we know the words for it, before we know that there are words, out we come, bloodied and squalling with the knowledge that for all the compasses in the world, there is only one direction, and time is its only measure.

Do we really appreciate the value and meaning of the atonement? Can we have gratitude for Christ’s sacrifice if we didn’t at sometime experience that dread of death? Isn’t that one of the big reasons why the veil of forgetfulness was given? So that we must experience this life as it is given?

I’m the first to admit that I’ve just started my spiritual journey. I am still building my testimony, but I ask those of you with stronger testimonies, did you always know with perfect knowledge that when your eyes shut that final time on earth, they will open in the Celestial Kingdom? As I ponder the question of mortal death as the end of this earthly, terrestrial life, it fills my heart with joy and gratitude as I begin to appreciate just what a deep and meaningful doctrine the gospel gives us.

When my husband and I read the Book of Mormon for the first time, we both got stuck right around Alma. Apparently we weren’t the first converts to do so. Could it be that we spend so much time in Alma because it contains much about what inspires us and brings us closer to God? I studied Chapter 11 in Alma in preparing for this talk because it centers on the important lesson that Christ will not save people in their sins – only those who inherit the kingdom of heaven are saved. It tells us that all men shall rise in immortality. And there is no death after the resurrection. Let me read from Alma 11:42:

Now, there is a death which is called a temporal death; and the death of Christ shall loose the bands of this temporal death, that all shall be raised from this temporal death.

It seems to me that one of the greatest restorations Joseph Smith gave us through the Book of Mormon is one of the lost truths that the atonement grants us this life. The one that finds us here together every Sunday Sacrament. Think about how this celebration of life should be part of Easter. Which brings me back to the original question – how CAN I make Easter more Christ-centered? Celebrate life. Be thankful for the many blessings each of us enjoyed this past year. The lessons we have learned and the experiences we shared. Pray for the missionaries who are dedicating two years of their precious life towards sharing the gospel with our friends and neighbors.

And if part of your existing family tradition is to hold an Easter egg hunt and/or give Easter baskets or other gifts, sit down with your children and explain that when we search for Easter eggs and candy, it is like how we should diligently search for Christ throughout our lives. And gifts, whether it is a beautiful dress, oversized chocolate bunny or a box of jelly beans, gifts represent the ultimate gift and sacrifice of the Savior—the Atonement and resurrection.

I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

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