In the whole of human experience Easter towers above all other feasts, celebrations, holidays because the cross alone offers forgiveness, restoration and resurrection to us individually and to all our broken struggling relationships. Yet we humans spend comparatively greater amounts of time, money and energy in celebrating Christmas rather than Easter. We can correct the imbalance and this 3 part series talks about ways to do just that.
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The Miracle of Easter
Guest: Barbara Rainey
From the series: Reclaiming Easter (Day 1 of 4)
Air date: March 16, 2015
Bob: This is the season of the year—the Easter season—when Barbara Rainey says we ought to be contemplating how, as forgiven people, we have a responsibility to forgive others.
Barbara: It’s essential for every marriage, it’s essential for every family, it’s essential for every working relationship because we’re all broken and we’re all going to make mistakes. We’re going to all need to, not only give forgiveness, but to be granted forgiveness. The more families can talk about forgiveness, the more it becomes something that they understand / they can grasp—they know how to practice it / they know what it looks like.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, March 16th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. We’re going to focus today on how you can make the Easter season a more special and more meaningful season at your house. Stay tuned.
Bob: And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Monday edition. You know, if this was the couple of weeks leading up to Christmas, we would all be very aware that Christmas was just around the corner. You couldn’t go anywhere without knowing that it’s Christmas time.
Dennis: The culture celebrates it—in fact, overdoes the giving aspect of Christmas.
Bob: But here it is—we’re a few weeks away from Easter, and there is pretty much nothing that indicates that to you if you’re out in the shopping mall or if you’re driving in your car. Easter just isn’t talked about—it’s ignored.
Dennis: It, unfortunately, is—one of the most holy and profound weeks in any person who professes to follow Jesus Christ.
Dennis: It’s because of what He did and what Easter represents that we have hope—not only of eternal life—but also a message to bring to our culture.
I’m going to tell you something, Bob—if I’ve ever sensed a need for us, as adults, and our children to have hope, it’s today—because I think, in a lot of places, followers of Christ are being robbed of their hope. We have a special guest with us on today’s broadcast.
Bob: In fact, we could say this is your favorite guest; can’t we? [Laughter]
Dennis: I think she’s been my favorite for 42 years and 43 Christmases. We laugh about this all the time. We had a big joke, early in our marriage, about how many Christmases we had celebrated. We always celebrate—
Barbara: —one more Christmas than anniversary.
Dennis: Yes, so it’s kind of tricky—anyway, 43 Christmases / 42 years of marriage. Welcome to the broadcast, Sweetheart.
Barbara: Thanks. Glad to be here.
Bob: You need to be counting how many Easters you’ve celebrated because that’s what we’re talking about here; right?
Barbara: That’s what we’re talking about—that’s right. Yes, instead of Christmases—you’re right.
Bob: And you’re very aware of the fact that this is a culturally-ignored holiday. As a result, a lot of Christians don’t even think about Easter until it is like: “Oh, this Sunday, it’s Easter!”
Barbara: Oh, yes—like “…tomorrow.”
Barbara: No, Christians are not thinking about it. Part of it is because we’re so used to being surrounded by everything that reminds us of Christmas during the month of December and, sadly, months before the month of December; but Easter is not like that. We don’t have music that’s playing on the radio, we don’t have decorations that are in every store, and we don’t have lights strung from houses. We don’t have anything that calls our attention to the fact that Easter is about to come and that Easter is the most important moment in all of history.
Dennis: You believe that, today, we need to be preparing our homes and our hearts for Easter.
Barbara: Exactly. We think a lot about advent when it comes to Christmas—and about preparing our hearts to worship and to rejoice at Christmas—but we don’t do much of that for Easter.
Now, there are those who practice Lent—who do some preparing of their hearts for the celebration of Easter—but it’s a much smaller proportion of the general population / it’s a very small portion of the Christian population. As a whole, we don’t do much to anticipate or prepare for the celebration of Easter.
Easter should be much more joyous / much more almost rambunctious of a celebration than Christmas is because we have so much to rejoice over because of what Christ did for us on the cross.
Bob: You didn’t grow up in a church tradition where Lent was a part of your practice; did you?
Barbara: That’s correct—I did not.
Dennis: Did you, Bob?
Bob: I didn’t either—although, in recent years, we’ve made it a part of our family’s personal practice—just for the reason that you mentioned—so that we can begin orienting our thinking / something that reminds us, in the weeks leading up to Easter, what it is we’re focusing on as we head toward the celebration of the resurrection. Have you started to engage in any of these Lenten practices yourself?
Barbara: Yes, we have. Dennis and I have talked about it. In fact, we created something for families to help families focus on preparing their hearts for Easter. We created a resource for families called The Messiah Mystery™, which helps families focus on all of the predictions in the Old Testament that foreshadow the coming of Christ and His death on the cross because so much of that is not common knowledge for believers today. It is just a great way to interact with your kids and help them understand why Christ had to come, why He had to suffer, why He had to die, and what all of that means.
Dennis: Here’s the thing I want our listeners to catch—we are all involved in a relay race—where one generation has been given the truth from God’s Word and the experience of God in their lives—to know Christ, walk with Him, read their Bible—but we have to make a hand-off.
What FamilyLife hopefully does for you, in your marriage—your family / your grandchildren—is, hopefully, we’re giving you some practical instruction of how you can take these seasons/the holidays—and this is Barbara’s heart. Bob, you know it’s her passion—
Dennis: —is to take these holidays that Christians really haven’t seized. They haven’t grabbed hold of them and said: “No, our family is really going to get into this. We’re going to make the most of what is,” as you said, “some of the greatest days of the Christian calendar.”
I know that you, Barbara, have a strong conviction that—just as Christmas is around the theme of giving—we’re missing an opportunity to really focus on and teach our children what something else is—that is all about Easter.
Barbara: Well, when you think about Christmas, we all know that it’s about giving. We can’t get away from it. It’s absolutely inescapable. It’s in our faces for over a month—for weeks, and weeks, and weeks—but, when it comes to Easter, we’re kind of confused about what it means. We understand that Jesus died on the cross, but we kind of don’t know what to do with that.
As I was thinking about it, I thought, “The real theme for Easter is the theme of forgiveness.” Easter is all about forgiveness. It’s all about Christ dying on our behalf so that we can have a right relationship with Him so that we can be reconciled to the Father.
As we celebrate, at Christmas, the gift—“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son”—we celebrate giving at Christmas. I think the counterpart for Easter is that we celebrate forgiveness—that we understand forgiveness, that we grow in forgiveness and that we talk about it, that we proclaim that we are a forgiven people. That’s what makes us different / that’s what sets us apart. It would just be wonderful to see families begin to focus on teaching forgiveness and practicing forgiveness at Easter like we focus on giving at Christmas.
Dennis: One of the verses that is most oft repeated, here on FamilyLife Today, is Ephesians 4:32.
Paul writes, “Be kind to one another.” Am I speaking to any families here who need kindness in their family? You know, when you and I were raising kids, this was one of the big struggles we had—
Dennis: —was helping them know how to really relate to each other and be kind to one another. Paul goes on and says, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another just as God in Christ forgave you.”
What is forgiveness? It is giving up the right to punish another person. Christ modeled it—what did He do? He went to the cross so that we don’t have to bear the punishment that our sins/our law-breaking result in us deserving; right? But Christ went to the cross to offer forgiveness to us if we will receive Him as our Savior, Master, and Lord.
Bob: And when you think about Easter, you have to keep in mind that, in a real sense, God didn’t give up the right to punish us but, instead, He redirected the punishment that we deserve.
Dennis: That’s right.
Bob: He did just wave it aside and say, “Well, I’ll let bygones be bygones.” He took the punishment that we deserve—He poured it out on His Son—that’s what Good Friday reminds us of. Then, Easter points to the fact that, as a result, we have hope—we have transformation, we have new life—we have hope.
Barbara: Yes. And I think it’s a great topic for families to talk about because forgiveness is essential—for every marriage, it’s essential for every family, it’s essential for every working relationship—because we’re all broken and we’re all going to make mistakes. We’re going to all need to, not only give forgiveness, but to be granted forgiveness. The more families can talk about forgiveness, the more it becomes something that they understand / they can grasp—they know how to practice it / they know how to give it.
It’s such a foreign concept to us, in our humanity, because we aren’t naturally good forgivers.
We need what God has done for us so that we can then do what He did for us and forgive. Talking about it at Easter and learning stories of forgiveness is a great way to help children understand, as they grow up, what it looks like practically: “What does it mean? How does that even work?”
Bob: During the Christmas season, we have the opportunity to focus on God’s gift to us because everybody is thinking about giving:
Bob: “What are you going to get for Christmas? What are you giving to somebody else?” At Easter, we don’t have anything like that to bring the issue of forgiveness, front and center, for multiple weeks, leading up to the holiday.
Barbara: Yes, it’s not as tangible. It’s not something that you can put your hands on. It’s a choice of the heart. I think one of the best ways for moms and dads to help their kids learn about forgiveness—first of all, you have to talk about it and you have to model it. You have to demonstrate it to your kids.
I remember, when we were raising our kids, Dennis and I both made a real conscious effort to teach our kids what it meant to forgive.
We would model that to them—so, when I would make mistakes—which I did all the time every day—I remember making a conscious effort of sitting down and saying to them: "Mommy did this, and it was wrong. I need to ask you to forgive me. Will you forgive me?”—almost in a step-by-step manner.
And then, when our kids would offend one another, we would say: “Now, you need to say what you did and name it—name what you did that was wrong to your sibling. Then, you need to say, ‘Will you forgive me?’” Then the sibling has to say, “Yes, I forgive you,” so that it really is that transaction that takes place.
Another way that is really helpful to teach children forgiveness is to read them stories of other people who have exhibited forgiveness.
We have this book—Growing Together in Forgiveness—that has seven stories of people who have demonstrated remarkable forgiveness in situations that are hard for most of us to even comprehend how someone could ask for forgiveness, and how someone could grant forgiveness for really, really difficult things. When you read stories like that to your kids, it inspires them: “Oh, if that person can forgive that, then maybe I can forgive my brother,” or “Maybe I can forgive my friend at school that was bullying me.”
Bob: And you wrote that book, with the seven stories in it, with the idea that parents could read aloud a story like this at the dinner table or—
Bob: Yes, whatever, as a way to make this subject front and center, whether it’s during the Easter season or any time of the year—but this is the perfect time of year to be doing that; isn’t it?
Barbara: Yes, exactly. Obviously, our kids—we all need to be talking about forgiveness all the time—but with the focus of Easter being on the cross and on the forgiveness that Christ purchased for us, it’s a great time to read stories of forgiveness with your kids so that it really does become a part of the Easter celebration. It makes our appreciation for what He did for us so much greater when we know what it means.
Dennis: Those seven stories are—they are pretty remarkable—I mean, the people who forgave had pretty tough things done to them.
Barbara: Yes, really tough things.
Dennis: Do you want to share one of them?
Barbara: Yes, one of my favorite stories comes from the country of New Zealand. Dennis and I were there doing a conference a number of years ago. While we were there, we heard this story that’s a part of the New Zealand history.
The story goes that—in the 1800s sometime, some missionaries came; and they brought the gospel to the tribes of the land. There was a particular tribe who received the news, and responded to the gospel, and became believers. They each got a little copy of the Gospel of Luke, as a gift for receiving Christ, and they would read that.
One little girl in the tribe—she was like 11 or 12—and she had learned to read from the missionaries. She read this Gospel of Luke to everyone in her tribe.
Many of them came to know Christ. The story goes that this school that she was a part of—that was led by the missionaries—had to move locations. On the journey to a new location, the children and the teachers were attacked by another tribe, who were not friendly; and she was murdered. I think there were some others, too, but she was murdered.
When her father discovered that she was murdered, his response was: “I have come to know Christ, and Jesus does not want us to take revenge.” He said, “So I must learn how to forgive the one who killed my daughter.” He didn’t even, at the time, know who it was. The story goes that the man who actually killed this little girl found the Gospel of Luke—she carried it with her wherever she went. He thought it was kind of cool—he didn’t know what it was. He took it, and he found someone who could read it to him. This person read to him; and he realized, “Oh, I offended God,” and he became a Christian then.
He, after receiving Christ, understood that he needed to seek forgiveness. He walked to the other tribe and asked the father of the girl he killed to forgive him. They forgave one another.
Part of what is so remarkable to me about the story is, not just that it happened, but that it’s taught in the schools of New Zealand to this day—to all the children in every school—it’s a part of their history. These children are growing up, hearing the story about this little girl who became a Christian and whose father forgave the man who killed her.
I just think it’s a wonderful illustration of how teaching our children these stories, as they’re growing up—it’s planting the seeds of truth in their hearts so it’s a part of who they are / it’s a part of their history—they know these stories. So, when they are in a situation that’s difficult and they need to forgive, they’ll remember this little girl, or they’ll remember John Newton, or they’ll remember some of these other people who demonstrated forgiveness. They’ll go, “Oh, that’s how you do it.”
God may use that to lead them, then, to grant forgiveness to someone else.
Dennis: I think the question for every mom and dad is this: “How are you going to make Easter a special time? How are you going to focus on forgiveness? How are you going to model it? How are you going to teach about it? How are you going to train your children to know what it means to truly forgive another person?” This is at the heart of what Christianity is all about. It’s why this season ought to be, as you said earlier, one of the most rambunctious times in our entire year.
Bob: As we’ve said, the culture doesn’t give us a lot of cues to try to have these kinds of conversations. Part of what you have been working on, as you’ve been designing resources in the Ever Thine Home® collection that you’ve created—you’re trying to give families some of the visual cues to have around the home that just trigger for you the opportunity for this kind of discussion / this kind of conversation—to bring to mind, in a visible way, what we ought to be reminded of today.
Barbara: Exactly. We have lots of those at Christmas. We have trees, and we have wreaths, and we have lights. Everything says: “This is a special occasion.”
We have so little at our disposal—so little that’s biblical at our disposal—that we can put up, that we can decorate with, that we can put on display. There is very little to put on your front door / to put in your yard—there is just not a whole lot available. I’m hopeful that God will grant us favor in helping me and my team to come up with ideas for ways that we can make a visual statement—not just for neighbors and friends / but for our own reminder—that we can see something in our house around Easter that reminds me: “Oh, yes. We’re in the Easter season. We’re talking about Christ, and the cross, and what He did for us,”—it’s a visual reminder.
We need those cues—those visual cues.
We need auditory cues—we need reminders of what God did for us. Having these celebrations are annual reminders; and then, in that annual reminder, having visual things can help us stay tuned into what God’s doing.
Dennis: I hadn’t thought about it until you said it a few moments ago. There really isn’t the music, Bob, around the season that there is at Christmas time. Isn’t that interesting? You would think—
Barbara: There are some songs, but there aren’t as many that are really specific to Easter.
Bob: Yes, there’s no Nat King Cole Easter album that you can go out and buy; right?
Dennis: No, and you’re not hearing it piped into malls and stores in the weeks leading up to the Easter holiday.
Dennis: I think there’s probably a reason for that.
Dennis: I mean—Easter is pretty counter-cultural.
Dennis: I mean, Christ—
Barbara: Well, everybody loves stories of angels and babies. A baby is pretty sweet, so it’s easy to love Christmas and everything that it stands for.
But Easter is a little different—it’s about a cross, which is a horrible form of execution. And it has blood, and—
Dennis: —and it’s about a Savior, who didn’t come to mildly change people’s lives.
Barbara: —but radically.
Dennis: He came to, yes, radically transform people’s lives. In fact, I love a statement that was made by—I think it was John Stott. He said, “When Jesus shows up, change occurs.” When you encounter Him—and you meet the King of kings, the Lord of lords, and you develop a personal relationship—I can tell you, from personal experience—when I encountered Him in college, He transformed my life like no other encounter I’ve ever had in my lifetime.
Bob: Is your house as decked out for Easter as it is for Christmas?
Dennis: It’s getting there. Oh yes, it is—it’s getting there, Bob!
Barbara: No, it’s not as decked out; and I don’t know that I really would want it to be as decked out. I think what I would like to see is—I’d like to see Christmas toned down somewhat—
Barbara: —and then Easter elevated so they are a little bit more balanced in the way we treat them.
Bob: Will you have pastel eggs that you dyed that you’ll put out somewhere?
Barbara: No. I would have—we did that when we had our kids at home—but we won’t have the grandkids around. We will go see them, probably, but we won’t do eggs at my house.
Bob: So what do you have?
Barbara: Well, I have a banner—an Easter banner—that we created a year ago, I believe it was. I did the first one to put on my door a couple of years ago, just to see if it would work. I got some paint and painted “I Am the Resurrection and the Life” on a piece of burlap. Then, on the flip side, I put the thing about “I am the Resurrection and the Life.”
Last year, we actually created a real one—so we’ve got that. You can put that on your front door or you can hang it on a wall in your house—but on the burlap side, it has a lamb and it says “I am the Resurrection and the Life,” which is one of Jesus’ claims of deity. And then, you flip it over on Easter Sunday morning. It has a crown; and it says, “He Is Risen.”
It’s a way to make a statement in your house—just for your own family or on your front door for anybody who drives by or comes by—that “In this house, we believe in Christ and what He did for us.”
Bob: You have some of your cross-shaped Christmas ornaments, the Adorenaments® that you’ve made, that are now on display, at Easter, on stands around the home?
Barbara: That’s right—we have those too.
Dennis: Well, actually, Bob—when she created these, she was thinking—
Bob: She had Easter in mind?
Dennis: She did.
Barbara: Yes, we had this in mind.
Dennis: So these are really not just Christmas-specific. These declare the names of Christ—His Savior names—each one on a different cross from a different period of history.
Bob: Yes, if folks would like to see what we’re talking about here, they can go to EverThineHome.com and see the collection of resources that Barbara Rainey has created as a part of what we’re doing, here at FamilyLife. Again, it’s EverThineHome.com. You can see the crosses, the Easter banner, some of the other resources that Barbara has been working on. The book about forgiveness is available on that website as well.
It’s called Growing Together in Forgiveness.
Again, go to EverThineHome.com. You can see the resources that Barbara has designed that FamilyLife is making available for the Easter season. If it’s easier to order some of these resources by calling us, you can do that as well. Our toll-free number: 1-800-FL-TODAY—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY.” Just ask about the Easter resources from FamilyLife. We can explain what we have, and you can order whatever you need over the phone.
And speaking of resources for the Easter season, many of you are familiar with the Resurrection Eggs® that FamilyLife has been producing for more than 20 years now—it’s a dozen plastic eggs. Each one has a symbol that signifies something related to Jesus’ final week on earth. It’s a great tool for helping your younger children better understand the Easter story and to make it memorable for them.
We would really like for every home to have a set of Resurrection Eggs to be able to use with children, or with grandchildren, or to pass on to neighbors. We are making Resurrection Eggs available this year to any of you who contact us and are able to help with a donation of any amount to help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today. We depend on those donations to sustain the work of this ministry, and we would be happy to send you a set of Resurrection Eggs as a thank-you gift when you support us.
Go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link in the upper right-hand corner of the screen that says, “I CARE.” Make an online donation, and we’ll send a set of Resurrection Eggs out to you. Or you can make a donation over the phone and request a set of Resurrection Eggs when you call 1-800-FL-TODAY—1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY.”
You can also mail a donation to us and request Resurrection Eggs. Our mailing address is PO Box 7111, Little Rock, Arkansas—Arkansas is AR—and our zip code is 72223.
Now, tomorrow, we’re going to continue to talk about how we can prepare our hearts and our homes for a deeper, richer Easter celebration. Hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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