I love the significance of Easter, the most precious remembrance in our Christian faith. Christmas is my favorite holiday, and celebrating the coming of Christ to earth as the newborn king is joyous and awesome, but Easter is the reason He came to begin with. I miss being at church on Easter morning, but the Lord knows I thank and praise Him every day of the year for what He did for us on the cross and for His resurrection.
For most of us, certain holidays are associated with favorite traditions and special memories. There are Easter memories and traditions, both in our family and at church that I treasure, as well. My parents were never big on the Easter Bunny, but we did color eggs, (usually on Good Friday) and hunt for Easter baskets the minute we woke up on Easter morning. When I had children of my own, I carried on those traditions. They were important to me because they invoked the memories of my happy childhood.
My girls, however, decided they did not want to emphasize the secular side of Easter with their own children and started traditions of their own. Rather than coloring eggs, they have “Resurrection Eggs.” They put little symbols of Easter, such as a silver coin, or a nail, or a small cross inside plastic eggs and in the days leading up to Easter they go through the eggs a couple at a time telling the story of Easter. My grandchildren don’t get Easter baskets; they get “Spring” baskets to celebrate springtime, sometime in the weeks before or after Easter. That’s fine with me. I don’t think getting Easter baskets or coloring eggs hurt me or my siblings, or my own girls at all. We still grew up knowing the true meaning and importance of Easter, just as we knew the significance of Christmas despite having a Christmas tree, presents and all the other traditional trimmings. If Laurie and Julie want to do things differently with their children and start new traditions, however, in an effort to reinforce the importance of Easter, I totally understand and support them in it.
I mentioned we’re doing our traditional Easter dinner at Corinne’s. We all have parts of the dinner that we bring year after year. As usual, I’m taking the (yummy!) fruit salad. Dee will probably bring deviled eggs. Mom usually makes the ham and a special cake. It has a Cool Whip frosting, cherry or strawberry filling, and a green coconut nest with jelly bean eggs on top A couple years ago; she dropped it upside down on the kitchen floor just before dinner. Somehow they managed to save it by scraping off the part that had hit the floor and making it into something like a “trifle.” It’s been called our “Resurrection Cake” ever since. We’ve laughed over that memory so many times and I am sure the Resurrection Cake will have a place in our family traditions for many years to come!
The church I grew up in had traditions associated with celebrating Easter, too. Every year the pastor would encourage the husbands to buy an Easter lily for their wives and then bring it to church to decorate the sanctuary on Easter morning. The whole front of the church would be loaded with lilies. They lined the walls and filled the window sills, and the church looked and smelled beautiful! A year or so after Bob and I were married we lived only two or three blocks from church. We decided one beautiful Easter morning to walk to church and I happily carried my lily, so proud to be a married woman now with my own lily to share. Someone else decided to “share” my lily, too—a bee! I got stung!
The church we now attend also decorates with lilies that the church members furnish, although with a slightly different twist. The lilies are bought and used to decorate the church on Easter as a memorial to family members and friends who have gone on to be with the Lord. I love that tradition for we are reminded that someday they (and we) will be resurrected, also. This year they will be using tulips instead of lilies because some people have complained that the lilies are hard on their allergies. I am sure it will be colorful and beautiful, and I don’t have a problem with it, but in a way it is not quite the same. The lilies remind me of little trumpets. Someday the trump of God will announce that resurrection of the saints when Christ returns in the Rapture. (I Thessalonians 4:16, 17)
There is an Easter tradition that I treasure most in my memories, though, because it taught me a life lesson I never forgot. In the church I attended as a child, they took a special offering every Easter which they called “Thirty Pieces of Silver.” In the Bible we are told that Judas betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. We were asked to turn that price of betrayal around by sacrificially giving thirty pieces of silver back to the Lord. It usually went then toward a special project in the church or a benevolent offering.
My mother took that “Thirty Pieces of Silver” offering very seriously. I remember her saving what she could for it and giving us kids coins for it. I also remember her talking about “sacrifice.” Christ gave Himself as a sacrifice on the cross for us, so Easter ought to be a time of sacrifice, she taught us. We almost never got new outfits for Easter—our sacrifice so that we could give to the “Thirty Pieces of Silver” offering. That was fine with me. The thought of sacrificing something so that we could give back to Him made me happy. The few times we did get new clothes around Easter time were because we actually needed them, not because it was the thing to do.
I tried to carry that tradition on with my own children, teaching them the importance and beauty of sacrifice by not buying new outfits for Easter for them, either, and using the money for a special offering to the Lord. There are far better sacrifices we can offer the Lord, though, than money or Easter clothes or giving up chocolate for Lent, as some do. What is true sacrifice?
The Law gave very detailed instructions to the Israelites as to how, what, where, when and through whom they were to sacrifice to the Lord. They were to give burnt offerings, meat offerings, meal offerings, milk offerings, drink offerings, sin offerings, wave offerings, heave offerings, peace offerings, free offerings, and on and on. They were to sacrifice sheep, goats, cattle, birds, and give offerings of grain, milk, gold, silver, brass, jewels, etc. There were certain times of day and certain holidays and events during the year when they were to sacrifice. God set down many requirements for the priests and for the size and materials of the tabernacle, altars, and priests’ robes. When Christ came and offered Himself as a sacrifice for us once and for all, though, that changed everything. Hebrews 10 tells us that all those requirements of the Law were just a reminder of our sin and a picture of what was to come when the Ultimate Sacrifice was made. The blood of bulls and goats could not take away sin, but the body and blood of Jesus Christ was the perfect sacrifice made once and for all for all who believed.
Just as God demanded a more perfect sacrifice for the remission of sins, so there are better sacrifices that we can make than mere material goods. Psalm 4:5 says to “Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the LORD.” In Psalm 27:6 David offered the sacrifices of joy in His tabernacle. We are told in Psalm 116:17 that we ought to offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving to God and in Hebrews 11:5 to offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually. Hebrews 13:16 says, “But to do good and to share forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” The Lord asks us in Romans 12:1 to present our bodies as living sacrifices.
And then there are some things the Bible tells us that are even better than sacrifice. Mark 12:33 says that “to love Him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” In Proverbs 21:3 we are told, “To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.” Samuel asked in I Samuel 15:22, “Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.”
Jesus gave Himself as a sacrifice for us. He died that we might live. Is there any sacrifice, then, too great for us to make for Him? The “Thirty Pieces of Silver” offering is well and good, and I learned a life lesson when I was young because of it, but the sacrifices God wants from us truly are not about sacrificing money or material goods. God treasures the sacrifices we make of righteousness, joy, thanksgiving, praise, goodness and kindness. He wants us to offer our bodies for His service. To love Him, to love others, to do justice and to obey His voice—these are better than sacrifice in His eyes. Jesus died for me. Can it be too great a sacrifice to live for Him?