“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.”
—1 Corinthians 15:3–6
As a child growing up in rural Indiana, the name “Jesus Christ” was rarely uttered in our house. Even on Easter Sunday, my family would gather, eat a special holiday meal, distribute traditional baskets, and hunt for eggs in the backyard. But that was it.
I worked as a boy cutting grass for neighbors. I also helped harvest corn. It was backbreaking work. One day, a neighbor invited me into her home and shared Christ with me. I became a born-again Christian. From then on, every Sunday morning, a church bus picked me up.
One Sunday, I came home with dampened and mussed–up hair. Immediately, my mom knew that her 12–year–old son had been baptized. She had been against the move and told me not to do it, but I wanted to follow Christ’s command.
By the time I was 30, I was married with three children. We dedicated them to the Lord and vowed to raise them with Christian principles.
No bunny business
That meant avoiding the commercialism of both Christmas and Easter and focusing on the spiritual meaning of the holidays. In fact, we didn’t even call it “Easter” because of the pagan roots. It was always “Resurrection Sunday.”
I would typically take my vacation during “Holy Week” (my kids were off from school anyway) and we would spend time together as a family. When they were young, I would read various Bible passages and find creative activities related to the resurrection. At night, we would watch movies such as “Jesus of Nazareth,” “The Robe,” and others. On Good Friday, we attended a Tenebrae (candlelight) service.
Then came the Sunday morning worship service, where my children would watch their mom sing in the choir.
There were no trips to the mall to get pictures of the kids with the “Easter Bunny.” They really didn’t care to know him anyway.
While we would give our children baskets, they weren’t your typical ones with peanut butter eggs and plastic grass. We would give them chocolate crosses and other spiritually–themed candy and books.
We also would use “Resurrection Eggs” to explain the story. These 12 plastic eggs look like your typical Easter eggs, but inside, rather than jelly beans, they hold key symbols of the Holy Week story, such as tiny plastic donkeys, coins, crosses, nails, crown of thorns, dice, and chalices. We would then talk about each object and how it related to the resurrection story.
I also would read the accounts of Holy Week from the Bible covering the Last Supper, as well as Christ’s arrest, trial, death, burial, and resurrection. I actually came to Jesus when I was young and without much knowledge about the historical evidence for the resurrection. I’ve since studied apologetics and am a firm believer.
On the reading list was 1 Corinthians 15, which I believe is one of the most powerful chapters in the Bible. The words of 1 Corinthians 15 have always intrigued me because of the proclamation that Christ “died for our sins.” Paul goes on to talk about the various post–resurrection appearances of Christ, including one before 500 people “at the same time.”
Paul says while some of those saints have died, “most” are still living. To me, he is almost begging critics to ask them what they saw. He’s saying, “They’re still here. Go interview them.”
The amazing transformation of the apostles was one of the main reasons I believe the resurrection to be true. How did these men go from being scared and hiding behind closed doors to becoming the boldest witnesses for Christ the world has ever seen? I believe it’s because they know what they saw and they wanted to share that with the world, even if it meant most of them would die as martyrs.
When I was a reporter and showed up at a breaking–news event, I wanted to talk to the “eyewitnesses.” Information coming from a secondary source is sometimes useful, but there’s nothing like talking to someone who was actually there. I was amazed as I read the Bible how many “eyewitnesses” we have of the resurrected Christ. They include John, who was at the foot of the cross and later ran to the empty tomb that glorious Sunday morning.
That’s what I shared with my children in the week leading up to “Resurrection Sunday.” The Easter Bunny is a fantasy; however, the empty tomb is a reality.
If you’re creative enough, there is a way to turn every holiday—especially the more commercial ones—into a message about Jesus Christ.
At Halloween, my family still gives candy to people who come to the door, but we also throw in child–friendly gospel tracts. When our kids were young and still went trick–or–treating, they would dress as Bible characters and turn the tables on Halloween. As they visited house–to–house, they offered gospel tracts.
In recent years, our church members have held a “Trunk–or–Treat” event. They dress up in costumes and decorate their car trunks. We invite people in the community to our church parking lot where we give them Bibles and gospel material. We also give them candy as they visit each car trunk.
No greater love
On the Fourth of July, we would teach our kids the words of Jesus that there is no greater love than laying down one’s life for friends (John 15:13). At Christmas, the ideas for eliminating the commercialism and focusing on the real meaning are endless. One of the many ways we did so during that holiday was to put up a full Nativity display with all the characters (including a stable). My kids would help me. It became a family tradition.
Now that my kids are grown, they thank us for turning their thoughts each spring to Christ’s great sacrifice at Calvary and His resurrection. Do they believe the holidays were boring because we acted differently from the world? Not at all. They look back fondly at those traditions and plan to do the same with their children.
I once worked for an editor who liked to quote author Stephen Covey when it came to writing news stories; “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”
That’s good advice. Regardless of the holiday, Christ should always be the main thing.
by Robert Mitchell