Easter: The Pinnacle of Christian Holidays
About the Guest
Why isn't Easter celebrated as enthusiastically as Christmas? Two years ago Barbara Rainey dreamed of having an amazing party to celebrate the reason believers have hope-Christ's death and resurrection. Rainey tells how she and her husband, Dennis, gathered their family together to have an Easter celebration they'll remember for years to come.
Barbara RaineyAfter graduating from the University of Arkansas with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history, Barbara joined the staff of Cru® in 1971. With her husband Dennis, whom she married in 1972, the Rainey’s cofounded FamilyLife®, a ministry committed to helping marriages and families survive and thrive in our generation. Barbara is a frequent speaker and guest on FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s award-winning nationally-syndicated daily radio broadcast. She is the author or coauthor of...more
Why isn’t Easter celebrated like Christmas? Barbara Rainey tells how she and her husband, Dennis, gathered their family together to have an Easter celebration they’ll remember for years to come.
Easter: The Pinnacle of Christian Holidays
Bob: We’re about to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, and Barbara Rainey says most of us are way too complacent about that reality.
Barbara: We should be jumping, and singing, and dancing, and cheering, and lighting candles, and setting off fireworks—whatever we can think of—let balloons go; it doesn’t matter. We should be, first of all, expressing our joy, and our gratitude, and our worship that God would do this for us; but secondly, we want people to know that we belong to the King of kings—we belong to Jesus, and He’s alive!
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, March 20th. Our host is Dennis Rainey; I'm Bob Lepine. So, what plans do you have for your Easter celebration next week?—or maybe you haven’t even thought about that yet. Well, we’ve got some ideas for you today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Tuesday edition. I got to spend part of your Easter holiday with you last year. Do you remember?
Barbara: You did. I do remember.
Bob: It was quite a day!
Barbara: It was.
Dennis: Well, Bob, you actually—
Bob: I was the instigator.
Barbara: You were the instigator. [Laughter]
Dennis: You were, but you actually helped a dream of Barbara’s to come true. I just want to hold my head—I confess to the listening audience—yours truly, as Barbara’s husband, who loves her dearly—had not been able to execute on this. I just didn’t have the faith that I could pull it off. We had a lot going on last Easter—well, why don’t you explain to the audience what you came to me and asked me to do?—because I want all of you guys, who are listening to the broadcast—picture your wife coming to you and asking for this.
Now, I want you to tell them the truth, Barbara—what you really asked for—
Barbara: I can do that.
Dennis: —because it wasn’t a small, little get-together you were talking about.
Barbara: Well, I have, for the last couple of years, started thinking about Easter the following year, right after Easter in the present year. Two years ago, after Easter of 2016, I started thinking about Easter 2017. It was fresh on my mind, and I remember thinking—one day, I woke up and I thought: “Oh, if I could do anything—if money was not an objection / if time was not an objection—
Dennis: Underline the word, “money.” [Laughter]
Barbara: — “if I could do anything I wanted to do—I would create an amazing party to celebrate the resurrection.” I was, again, reminded that we don’t do enough to celebrate the victory over the cross—that Jesus rose from the dead and has opened the way to heaven for us. We go to church, and we might dress a little differently; we might sing a few other songs, but we really don’t do a whole lot, as believers.
I thought: “I want to change that! I want to do something different.” Sometime, around June, I started thinking, “If I could do anything that I wanted to do—
Dennis: That’s a dangerous thought! “If I could do anything…” [Laughter] My wife is a creative—
Bob: “Money is no object!”
Dennis: That’s exactly right!
Bob: “Time is no object!”—yes.
Dennis: Okay; so go on.
Bob: What would it be?
Barbara: I wanted to have a church-wide celebration. I wanted to get our church to plan ahead. We rented a field that—you know, obviously—would be for anyone who wanted to come. But I imagined me stringing lights all over the place, having some music group from the church come and play music. I wanted to cater a meal. I wanted to have families come and bring their kids and have singing, and dancing, and fireworks at the end—to have some kind of an amazing public demonstration of: “This is a group of believers, who are serious about the resurrection, and we want the world to know that this is a really big deal for us.”
Bob: I’m surprised you didn’t just throw in there, “And let’s do it in Jerusalem.” [Laughter]
Barbara: Oh, I didn’t even think about that!
Bob: So she comes to you and says, “Hey, could we do this?”—is that how it happened?
Barbara: It did!
Dennis: And I took a deep breath. I was listening; and I was going: “God bless you, Sweetheart! [Laughter] I love you. I’ve tried to help you achieve every dream you’ve had, and I would love to try to help you accomplish this; but I don’t own a stadium and I’m not a banker.” [Laughter]
Bob: You know, now, what you ask.
Barbara: I know, I know; and I knew I didn’t.
Dennis: I’m enough of an executor—and I’m going—I’m starting to think, “What would be the logistics here?”
Barbara: See! You’re enough of an executor, and I’m just enough of a dreamer—that I hadn’t thought through the costs, or time, or, you know, all of that stuff.
Bob: So, in the meantime, I came in to save the day.
Barbara: Yes; so a couple of months later—
Dennis: Now, wait!! [Laughter] Wait just a second! [Laughter]
Bob: Actually, I came in with a completely different idea.
Barbara: You did.
Dennis: You really did; you really did.
Barbara: And I had given this idea to the Lord. After we had our little conversation, I said: “Okay; God, I would love to do this—You know I would. If it can happen, great!—but I’m willing to let it go too.”
Dennis: I just thought it through. Now, here’s the point—I thought all of it through; and I thought, “Sweetheart, I would love to do this—I really would; but to execute that, you really need a team of people—
Dennis: —“to pull this off.” Easter occurs in the spring, when we’re holding dozens of Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways all over the country, so I couldn’t pull the FamilyLife® team aside. So I had to say, “No.”
Dennis: So it really was a dream that died for Barbara.
Bob: And then, we sat down and started working on the video series that we’re releasing, here, in a few weeks, called The Art of Parenting™. We started mapping out: “What are the parenting principles that we want to teach? What are the ideas that need to be communicated?
“What will each session look like? Who are the people who are going to be the contributors to this session?” I mean, we had—it was a big project to put all of this together!
Dennis: And it was a video project—
Dennis: —okay? So, all of a sudden, Bob becomes the hero; and I’m the goat!
Barbara: Well, but—yes; but he first came and asked you, “Could I fly in your family and could we stage a Thanksgiving feast?”
Bob: The thought was that the conclusion of this series needs to paint a picture for folks that there’s a pay-off in parenting.
Bob: And the pay-off is that your kids grow up, and they have grandkids, and the family becomes what your family has become.
Dennis: —a lot of people! [Laughter]
Bob: We didn’t want an idealized picture, but we did want an aspirational one.
Bob: We wanted to say, “You know, parenting is hard work; and in the day to day, you’re going, ‘Man, is this really worth it?’” So we wanted something to say, “It’s worth it.”
Barbara: “It’s worth it”—yes.
Bob: And so, I came and said—knowing that Thanksgiving has always been a favorite holiday of yours—
Barbara: It has.
Bob: —I said: “Let’s get the kids here and we’ll stage a mock Thanksgiving.”
Bob: “We’ll just have the whole family, and we’ll film your family coming home for Thanksgiving.” And you said, “No.”
Barbara: I said: “Does it matter if it’s Thanksgiving? Is that important to the script?”
You said, “Why?” And I said, “Could we do Easter instead?” [Laughter] And, kindly, Bob said: “I don’t know why not. We’re going to film it in the spring.”
Bob: So there we were—in fact, we looked at: “What’s the best time to do this? What’s the best filming day?” We picked Good Friday and the Saturday before Easter, and we brought in your kids.
Dennis: —and grandkids.
Bob: —and grandkids. And then we went to work with what you had in mind for decorations. And folks, let me just tell you—when Barbara plans a dinner party, she’s not just thinking about the napkins and the centerpiece.
You had a little more in mind than just a few napkins and centerpieces.
Barbara: Well, I wanted a few of the elements that I had pictured for a church-wide, all-day celebration. We got strings of lights—not Christmas lights—but they have small bulbs on them that are about an inch-and-a-half in diameter. We rented a barn that has a really big upstairs that was open, and clean, and available. We strung those lights all over that barn, and then we borrowed tables from a friend of mine who helped me execute this and pull this off.
Dennis: A lot of tables!
Barbara: And we put these tables, end to end, to make this really long, country table scene for 30 people; because we had 30 people to put around the table.
Barbara: We borrowed chairs; we did all kinds of things.
Bob: And you went to work cooking the ham and—
Barbara: Oh, no! I didn’t have to do that. That was another kindness from Bob Lepine. He said, “I’ll cater the food.” I said, “Fabulous!”
Bob: So we did get everybody together. You had everybody wear white.
Barbara: I had everybody wear white. You know, I grew up in an era when families—women, in particular—typically wore white on Easter Sunday. I never understood why—it just never made sense to me. I thought, “Well, that’s kind of a silly tradition.” But then, I started kind of digging into it and thinking it through. Biblically, wearing white represents what we’re going to look like in heaven.
Easter is our introduction into what heaven is going to be like. Jesus paved the way for us to go to heaven—He ascended to the Father / He is seated at the right hand of God. Revelation tells us that we will be clothed in white linen. I thought, “If Easter is our entrance, so to speak—it’s a prelude of the wedding feast of the Lamb, and we will be wearing white linen—then let’s do that for Easter.”
I asked my kids—it was funny—I sent an email to my kids and said: “I would like for all of you to wear white. The guys can wear khaki pants and white shirts, or polos, or whatever.”
Our son wrote back and said, “Isn’t that going to look like a little dated Christmas card picture, when everybody used to match?!” [Laughter] I laughed and I said: “Yes; I know. I’m not going to hold everybody to it like I did when you were little kids; but if you can, I would like for us to do it.” I explained why—that I wanted us to represent what we will look like, one day, in heaven. Everybody went, “Oh that makes sense”; so they did.
Dennis: We had 12 adults and 18 grandchildren at the table. And, Bob, you mentioned it earlier—or Barbara did—but this is not the perfect family.
Barbara: No; we are not.
Dennis: We’ve told a lot of stories that ought to have completely eroded any thought in the listener’s mind of our family being perfect. We are a normal, regular family that has sibling rivalry—we’ve got all kinds of stuff—but I’ve got to tell you—this was a glorious moment!
Barbara: It was.
Dennis: Because they were the cleanest they’ve ever looked in their lives. [Laughter]
Barbara: Over the table was this track that Bob’s video team had erected for the camera; so they could take a camera shot from one end of the table, where Dennis was seated, all the way down to the other end of the table. I don’t know how many feet the tables were—put together—but it was a long length. The kids were all on their best behavior, because they were mesmerized by the cameras and all of the stuff that was happening around us. That helped us have a great event.
Dennis: But I’ll tell you—for the folks who want to go look at it, we’ve got a link we’ll tell you about in a minute. Our grandkids were typical grandkids—they were peeking at the camera.
Bob: Yes. [Laughter]
Barbara: They were!
Dennis: It was rolling back—
Bob: While the prayer was being said, they were looking.
Dennis: That’s exactly right!
Barbara: They were looking around; yes.
Dennis: They were cheating! So it’s a normal family; but it did come close to, I think, going where Barbara wanted—which is, “Let’s find a way to up the game on Easter Sunday / on Resurrection Sunday, where we celebrate the true meaning of what it meant for Christ to defeat death and grant us hope for life everlasting.”
Bob: We got the filming done that we needed, and then we took off and let you celebrate Easter as a family together.
Barbara: Yes; yes.
Bob: It went on for a couple of hours up there in the barn; didn’t it?
Barbara: I think we were there until 9:00; weren’t we?
Dennis: We were!
Barbara: I don’t remember, but we did. We ate our meal, and we had really nice dessert options. The kids kind of just disappeared—they went running, and shooting baskets, and all kinds of things that were around the outside of the barn.
A couple of the older teens and all of the adults stayed around the table, after the dinner part was over. We all went around, as a group, and we read the stories on the Easter napkins that we have—that are available from EverThineHome.com. It’s a series of stories that you can read that take you to the cross— that take you to the experience of what happened / the miracles that happened in those hours on Good Friday.
We enjoyed reading that together and talking about that together. It kind of reminded us, again, why we were celebrating.
And then, the kids all came in—
Dennis: Before you move on—
Barbara: Okay; sure.
Dennis: —I just want to say—because, Bob, you weren’t there—I wish that had been filmed; I really do.
Dennis: Because you had the adults reading about what happened when the curtain was split—
Bob: —into two.
Dennis: —from the top of the curtain to the bottom—
Barbara: —to the bottom; yes.
Dennis: —symbolizing God coming down—
Dennis: —and giving us access to the Holy of Holies. I mean, there were just a number of moments—because there are eight napkins that have eight little snapshots that are all around the resurrection—but I think we walk by—
Barbara: Yes; we do walk by.
Dennis: We don’t have a moment to truly think about what that was like!
Dennis: That happened in history! That’s a real moment—
—God stepped out and became a man, and He lived a perfect life; and then He went to the cross and He died.
Barbara: Yes; yes.
Dennis: And then, on Resurrection Sunday, He’s alive!
Bob: So are you planning, now, Part Two? [Laughter]
Bob: Just wondering!
Dennis: That was such a good moment, Bob! You completely—you’re feeding my wife’s appetite! [Laughter] Maybe there will be somebody listening to this, saying: “You know what? We’ll rent the AT&T Stadium in Dallas/Fort Worth—
Dennis: —for an Easter celebration, and we’re going to bring Barbara Rainey in to decorate it.”
Barbara: Well, you never know!
Dennis: I’m going to tell you, folks: “If you’ve got the right person to do it, she could decorate the stadium; and we’ll figure out how to preach the message.” But I’m going to tell you something—it is really high time that families re-take this holiday for what it means.
Dennis: It is the gospel of Jesus Christ. It gives us hope, beyond the grave, of eternal life.
Bob: And this may not happen in a stadium—
Barbara: Oh, no.
Bob: —but it could happen in tens of thousands of living rooms.
Barbara: Oh! Living rooms—backyards! You know, if you live in a neighborhood that’s got a community gathering area—it can be [anywhere], and it can be anything.
I mean, after we read the stories from the napkins, one of our daughters and our son said, “Can I read some Scripture?” She had her Bible, and she opened it up, and had something that she wanted to read. Our son pulled up his phone and found his verses and read his verses. Then we stood up. Some of the older grandkids came back at that time, and we gathered kind of in a circle. We decided we wanted to cheer / we wanted to toast—we wanted to do something that was out of the ordinary. We gathered around in a circle. I don’t remember exactly how this happened, but I remember we then ended up praying. I prayed; Samuel prayed; you [Dennis] prayed. I don’t remember who else did, but we all—most of us—prayed out loud, thanking Jesus for what He had done for us.
Then, after we did that, we said: “Hip! Hip! Hooray!”—cheers / whatever—high fives. We laughed; we hugged; and then we turned on music, because one of my dreams was that we would dance together. And we have never done this with our family—we’re not a family of dancers.
Dennis: They can blame it on me. [Laughter]
Barbara: Well, there’s—
Dennis: It’s bad DNA! [Laughter]
Bob: The rhythm gene!—you didn’t get the rhythm gene; did you?
Barbara: No; he didn’t,—I will attest to that. He didn’t get the rhythm gene. [Laughter]
But there’s a verse in Psalm 149—in fact, I actually lettered it and framed it and had it as a part of our decoration last year at our Easter celebration. Psalm 149 says: “Let them praise His name with dancing, making melody to Him with tambourine and lyre.” The next verse says: “For the Lord takes pleasure in His people.” And I thought, “I want us to dance before the Lord and give Him pleasure, that we are so grateful, and excited, and happy at this amazing gift!”
We turned on music and then all the little kids came back. It was so funny; because they were out there, just jumping up and down—doing somersaults, the little ones. It wasn’t beautiful dancing. [Laughter] It wasn’t anything that anybody would have cared to watch—it was actually quite silly, and not everybody danced. We turned all the chairs from the table around and kind of made a circle. It was fun to be able to do something out-of-the-box from what we typically do in church, to say, “We want to make a statement that this is worth being even foolish-looking to let Christ know how grateful we are for what He did for us.” So that was how the evening ended.
Bob: So we’re going to let listeners have a sneak preview—
Dennis: —not of the dancing!
Barbara: We didn’t film that.
Dennis: I’m sorry we didn’t, in a way; but we’ve saved you on that.
Bob: This is how The Art of Parenting series ends. I’m a little—you know, this is kind of like showing the last scene in the movie—right?—
Bob: —before anybody’s seen the movie.
Barbara: But maybe it will be a teaser and they’ll go, “Oh, I want to see the rest.”
Bob: I hope so!
Barbara: So there you go.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.” On Good Friday, the Light of the World was extinguished; and for a brief moment, hope looked like it was lost. It looked like Satan had won. But on Sunday—on Resurrection Day—everything changed forever!
What if families started making much of Easter again? Theologian N.T. Wright says: “Easter is about the wild delight of God’s creative power. We should light every candle instead of just some.” Is it any wonder, do you think, that people find it hard to believe in the resurrection of Jesus if we don’t throw our hats in the air? This is our greatest festival. Take Christmas away, and you lose two chapters at the beginning of Matthew and Luke. Take Easter away, and you don’t have a New Testament—you don’t have Christianity.
So, with your family, with your friends, with your whole church—prepare a feast / a party—a dawn-to-dusk celebration filled with singing, and giving thanks, and rejoicing. Bring balloons, light candles, play music, dance with joy. Maybe end the day with fireworks; but above all, make Resurrection Day magnificent. Shout to the world: “Christ is risen! Because of the cross, life is changed forever.” May you and yours become Easter people, for whom the cross is everything. And may the world notice and be drawn to Jesus because of you.
Dennis: And I just want to invite all of our listeners to join us at your house; okay?
Let’s celebrate magnificently and expectantly what Christ has done and the hope that He has given us.
Bob: And I hope our listeners will take time, in advance of the holiday, to prepare for the holiday and to be expectant. Barbara, you’ve put together a great devotional for Holy Week—it’s free / it’s downloadable. You can go to FamilyLifeToday.com to download the devotional. There’s also a candle imprint design that you can download as well. It’s pretty cool how you’re able to iron it on to a candle. Again, the details are available, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com.
Be sure to share this with other people you know in your church / in your community. Again, this is a free resource, and we’d love to have you get the word out through social media to your friends. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com to find out more about Barbara’s Holy Week devotional and the candle imprints that are available. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com.
You know, when we talk about making Easter a bigger deal in your home, what we’re really talking about is making Jesus and the gospel the core of what’s going on in your home rather than a component of what’s going on in your home. There is a dramatic transformation that takes place when a family begins to see Jesus at the core of all they’re doing. In fact, that’s at the heart of a movie that we have produced that’s going to be coming to movie theaters as a special two-night only event, May 1st and May 3rd. The movie is called Like Arrows. If you haven’t seen the trailer for the movie yet, go to FamilyLifeToday.com; you can watch the Like Arrows trailer.
This movie is a kick-off event for the launch of a new video series we’ve created called FamilyLife’s Art of Parenting™. It’s an eight-session video series that walks you through the four important areas where our focus needs to be as we’re raising our sons and daughters.
That video series is going to be available beginning in May as well.
We have a burden, here, at FamilyLife® to try to get this information about parenting, along with a clear presentation of the gospel, into the hands and hearts of people who are not currently going to church—may be far from God / far from the church. We want to reach them and use their love for their children as a way to open their heart to thinking about how important spiritual development is in their life and in their children’s lives.
We’re working together to develop a strategy to reach these families. We’ve calculated it’s going to take about $10 per family to be able to get this content to these folks, and we’re asking for your help. If you could make a donation today—whether it is $10, or $100, or $1000 / whatever it is—you’ll help us reach more people with God’s design for parenting, but also with a clear gospel presentation.
You can donate to help us with this by going to FamilyLifeToday.com and making an online donation, or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to donate. With your donation, we’d like to send you, as a thank-you gift, a set of seven prayer cards. Each card has a different character quality that you can be praying for your children or your grandchildren. The prayer cards are great to just tuck in your Bible and have available so that you can be praying more regularly and more strategically for your children or your grandchildren. Again, the cards are our thank-you gift when you make a donation today. You can donate, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to make a donation.
And we hope you can join us back tomorrow. We’re going to talk about how a lot of young people, during their adolescent years, begin to turn away from God, or from the church, or from faith. We’ll talk about what we can do, as parents, to try to build a hedge/build a wall to keep them from turning away.
Todd Friel is going to join us. I hope you can be back with us as well.
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’ll see you next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas; a Cru® Ministry.
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