Cultivating A Christ-Centered Family Focus At Easter

by Chris Lynch

scrabble tiles spelling out Happy Easter

Easter is a highlight on the annual calendar for families. The family meal comes standard. Some of the best, social media-worthy family photos are taken when we’re all dressed up for Easter. Many of us have fond family memories enjoying egg hunts or digging into loaded goody baskets from Grandma. And I mean, who doesn’t love giant chocolate bunnies?

When it comes to holidays, Easter trails only Christmas and Halloween in terms of its commercial footprint. Once we pass Valentine’s Day on the calendar, one simply has to walk into the neighborhood supermarket to be reminded that Easter is right around the corner.

For many Americans, the culture of this holiday has a big effect on the mindset about church, too. It’s the one Sunday a year that the typical non-church-goer might actually consider attending a service. Easter commercialism can also affect those who already attend religious services regularly. The need to look your “Easter best” produces a scramble to purchase spring-colored attire every year about this time. According to the National Retail Federation, Americans are expected to spend $4 billion on clothing for Easter this year.

Yes, Easter is a cultural staple. And much of that cultural package is special for our families; the memories surrounding Easter celebrations are precious gifts. This is not an article that will bemoan the evils of egg hunts or candy!

But many of the cultural and commercial elements of Easter are aimed straight at children, and it’s those things that typically fill our children’s minds at Easter. While there may not be anything wrong with goody baskets, candy, egg hunts, or dress-up, should those things be the main attraction of Easter for our kids? Or should we as dads seek to cultivate a very different focus in them this time of year?

For the believer, Easter is about a Person. The purpose of this day is to emphasize and celebrate the victory of Jesus Christ. The centerpiece of Easter is the empty tomb. Jesus rose from the grave to conquer sin and defeat its penalty on behalf of you and your children.

As part of our responsibility to bring our children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord Jesus (Eph. 6:4), we must show our kids that Easter isn’t about all the cultural trappings that appeal to them; it’s about the resurrection of their Savior and King. Easter is Resurrection Sunday. Here are a few suggestions for us to consider as dads as we lead our families into this very special, very important day of remembrance.

Prioritize things that help us celebrate Jesus

When it comes to traditional and cultural facets of Easter, very few of them actually serve to point our children to Christ’s victory over death. Even the gift-giving common at Christmas is a direct picture of the gift God gave us in sending Jesus at the incarnation. Cultural Easter largely lacks any such parallels. So while it is not wrong to enjoy the commercial embellishments or family-centered traditions that come with Easter, we are curtailing the focus on Jesus with our children if those things define Easter for our families.

With such a responsibility before us, we should be intentional with every family Easter activity. Easter traditions are valuable for families, but as dads we must think through the “why” behind each one. Bring each facet of the day back to a celebration of Jesus wherever possible. For example, the overflowing goody basket can remind our children of the overflowing blessings that are ours forever because of Jesus’ victory over death. If today is ultimately not about us but about remembering our Savior’s victory, then how can we be purposeful in remembering him in all our activities?

Prioritize corporate worship of Jesus

Speaking of choosing activities that celebrate our Savior’s victory over sin and death, there is no better way to do so than to gather with God’s people and rejoice together in the Resurrection. Believers in the Early Church chose Sunday as their day of worship because it was the day Christ arose, so we actually celebrate this every Sunday! But Easter is a marvelous opportunity to give the Resurrection itself overwhelming worshipful focus.

Nothing you can do on Easter Sunday could possibly be more important than this. And nothing short of sickness should keep us from this. Dads, Resurrection Sunday worship with your church family comes first on Easter.

Don’t just lead your family to be there. Prepare them to passionately participate without distraction. Communicate to them in advance the wonderful truths about what we’re celebrating on this day (see below), and model the joy of what Christ accomplished with your own approach to Easter worship. Proper worship places all the focus of the participant on God himself, not us. So, for example, while our attire can and should communicate the importance of what we are doing, I must teach my daughter that how she looks in that special spring dress can’t be the focus. The victory of Jesus must be.

Prioritize the Resurrection story

The Resurrection of Jesus was the culmination of God’s great story of the ages. It’s so much more than just a bright visual of an empty tomb. It’s the most amazing story ever! We must show that reality to our children. Kids are impacted by compelling stories, so constantly going back to the story of Christ at Easter helps our children keep it foremost in their minds.

First of all, remember that Easter is a weeklong story. Dads, walk our families through each part of Christ’s life from Palm Sunday through Easter. Encourage them to imagine what it would be like to be present for each mile-marker of the Passion Week. Take the opportunity to portray the significance of Palm Sunday, the Lord’s supper on Thursday, and the meaning of Good Friday in family Bible time or discussion throughout the week. If your church holds a Good Friday service, I’d encourage you to prioritize your presence there as a family, as well.

Second, don’t neglect the Cross. That weeklong story includes some very hard things. Easter is a happy, bright, vibrant celebration, but it was immediately preceded by a dark, horrific series of events, from Christ’s betrayal to his torturous trial to his gruesome crucifixion to the agonizing and seemingly hopeless three-day period in the tomb. On the cross, Jesus took our sins upon himself and paid God’s just penalty that we deserved. He gave himself in a bloody death so you and your children could have eternal life. The darkness of Good Friday makes all the joyous facets of Easter Sunday that much more meaningful. The Easter story is the story of the cross. Dads, we’ll never go wrong pointing our kids to the cross of Christ.

Prioritize the impact of the Resurrection

Christ did not rise from the dead just so we could have a fun celebration on a springtime Sunday each year. His resurrection means everything for you and your children. The truths behind Easter Sunday are nothing short of eternally transformative. We must not fail to emphasize them to our children at Easter.

The victory of Christ means that the free gift of salvation from the penalty of sin is abundantly available for them if they have not yet trusted in Christ’s work for them. The victory of Christ means that those in him are assured eternal life. The victory of Christ means that those who have been saved by his finished work no longer are enslaved to sin. The victory of Christ means that the life and joy and light so often associated with Easter are present in their hearts because they are in him and risen with him. The victory of Christ means there’s no fear of death because he’s conquered its sting for us–and so much more!

The truths of the resurrection also spur us to share this wonderful news. There’s no more effective evangelist than a child who has grasped the amazement of the victory of Jesus and is excited to share it with neighbors and friends! Encourage them to creatively take the opportunity to share what so excites them about Easter with others!

What we are celebrating on Easter is nothing less than the best news that your children could hear. No focus could be more full of hope and joy and life and meaning. Why would we cloud that glory with too much emphasis on the cheaper, temporal distractions of “cultural Easter”? Dad’s, let’s let lead our families in prioritizing the celebration of the glorious, death-defying resurrection of our Lord and Savior!

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