Easter Sunday holds a prominent place in my church-going memories. The smell of Lilies. New clothes. The Easter bonnet my mom wanted me to wear and that I hated. Easter breakfast after a sunrise service, then a second church service. Good memories.
As an adult, Easter memories still sit strongly in my mind. Same smell of Lilies. Spring colors. Easter hymns like “Crown Him with Many Crowns” that I’ve never not known. Small, colored cylinders with treasures inside (aka Easter Eggs, but that term bothers some people). Easter dinner followed by a rather competitive egg hunt at the in-laws.
Outside of the usual Easter routine are several Easters spent away from home, including one on a mountaintop at sunrise in Vermont. Would have been better had there not been blinding fog, but majestic nonetheless.
Easter 2012 combined the usual routine with an away-from-home experience. The first half of the day found me riding in a car traveling home to Michigan from Missouri. No Lilies. No Sunday best attire. Worship via the radio (one of the songs was “Crown Him with Many Crowns), and McDonalds for Easter dinner. We did make the annual hunt at the in-laws though. Even with a seemingly un-Easter start, this Easter held a deeper meaning than ever before in my life.
Somewhere along the line, Easter evolved from a once-a-year Sunday celebration to a year-round sense of purpose. The reason for Easter – celebrating the risen Christ – exists now as a way of life, a state of mind if you will – rather than a capstone day in the church year.
How did my view of Easter change? The ultimate purpose stayed the same, yet my view of that purpose has evolved away from the days of sunrise services and Easter bonnets. (Actually, only the one bonnet. I refused to wear them after the first experience.) In those days, this far-away God had sent his Son to die for my sins. Believing that got me to Heaven; this was the limit of my faith and the existence of God in my life. Today, the Easter story presents more than just a ticket to eternity in Heaven. Today, Easter now represents a relationship with Jesus.
When did my view of Easter change? Over the years, experiencing struggles and letting Christ lead me to victory in and through them matured my faith. Faith is a simple but crucial act of the spirit, and the maturing of faith through the Holy Spirit’s leading and guiding built the relationship that now permeates my existence.
My view changed also because worship changed over the years too from organ-led traditional hymn singing to contemporary worship with hands raised. (Note that I do not believe one is better than the other.) Some songs stayed the same, yet my participation exists very differently. My involvement in the process seems to have impacted my view of the Easter message too.
Parenting also changed my view of Easter. Not only do I want my boys to have an intimate relationship with Christ, my understanding of God’s love for His Son has also grown for me since I became a parent. Would I sacrifice one of my sons to save another person’s life? No, I wouldn’t. Yet, that is what God did, and being a parent gives some inclination of how much He must have loved me to give up His only Son. Something I would never do.
In Holy Week Thoughts and Observations, T. Neal Tarver asks the question, “Where has God captured your attention during this past Holy week?” I answered that “God has captured my attention with a look back this week. I have been thinking about different ways I have spent Easter…” And in that thinking, I realized that my faith has progressed and grown in a way that affected not only how I spend Easter but how the reason behind Easter exists in my life.
My spiritual growth is illustrated in the many ways I have experienced Easter throughout my life. And while my preference by far is to spend the morning at my home church and the afternoon with my family, I am able to truly celebrate Easter wherever my body may physically be because my spirit is always connected to Him.
Why did this happen? Somewhere along the line I discovered that not only did Jesus die on the cross for my sins, but He also wanted to be my friend. Not only was He God’s son, but He was my brother. In other words, Jesus became a real person in my life. He became my best friend, a deep longing that I remember having even as a young child. A longing that was not met until after I had my own kids and started experiencing Easter more than just one Sunday a year.
DISCUSSION: Think back over past Easters in your life. How have they changed & evolved? What evidence do you see of growth in your walk with Christ?