It isn’t Christmas
About the Guest
Many Christians seem to have lost sight of the most magnificent holiday of the year, and here's a tip - it's not Christmas. Barbara Rainey shares her passion for elevating Easter, the greatest holiday of the Christian calendar.
Barbara Rainey shares her passion for elevating Easter, the greatest holiday of the Christian calendar.
It isn’t Christmas
Bob: The great hymn writer, Isaac Watts, knew the significance of Jesus’ death and resurrection. He wrote: “When I survey the wondrous cross, on which the Prince of Glory died, my richest gain I count as loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.” Here’s Barbara Rainey.
Barbara: When you think about what Jesus did for us, we should be speechless. We should be in awe. We should fall on our faces. That’s the kind of experience / that’s the kind of emotion—that’s what I think we need in Easter. It shouldn’t be a holiday that we just kind of go, “Oh, well.” We need to feel some of what Jesus felt, and we need to be in awe, and we need to marvel over what He did for us.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, April 1st. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.
How do we begin to prepare our hearts so that the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection is indeed a time when we marvel at what Christ has accomplished? We’ll talk about that today. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Tuesday edition. I’m a little concerned about what our listeners are going to hear from your wife today.
Dennis: Why is that?
Bob: Well, we’re listening to a message today where she’s talking about the need to exalt Easter. She’s going to talk about getting rid of the bunnies and the chicks. Now, she does not mean—
Dennis: It’s just because they’re not made out of sugar that you’re—you don’t like the message—is that what you’re saying? [Laughter]
Bob: You know, the Peeps® that you get on Easter—the little marshmallow Peeps—
Dennis: Yes. Are you a big fan of Peeps?
Bob: I like Peeps! [Laughter]
Dennis: You’re kidding me. You know what that’s made of?
Bob: Pure sugar is—
Dennis: —alloy, or something that—[Laughter]
Bob: I like Peeps; and I guess, at your house,—
Dennis: Yellow dye number 23, or something.
Bob: You’re done. You’re not getting any Peeps at your house if I hear this message correctly.
Dennis: No, there are plenty of crowns / there’s plenty of crosses and—[whispering] in fact, I want to let our listeners in for a little surprise. This is a sneak—just to let you know a little of what’s coming—the Adorenaments for next Christmas are going to double-up and can be used next Easter because they are all in the shape of crosses—really, really cool.
Bob: So, ornaments—to hang on the tree—that have the crosses—
Dennis: Yes, and they’re also going to double-up and, I think, help families celebrate Easter around the most significant sign-post in history.
Bob: Well, that’s what today’s message is all about because your wife has a passion to see families get more engaged in the celebration of Easter—not just wait until the week before—but take the weeks leading up—and talk about the death, and burial, and resurrection of Jesus—and give it an emphasis that goes beyond the emphasis we give to Christmas.
She presented a message when we were together on the Love Like You Mean It®marriage cruise, back in February. She talked about the need to exalt the celebration of Easter. There were a lot of people whose heads were nodding. You just have a sense that people, who love Christ, resonate with what Barbara’s saying.
Dennis: There’s some good teaching here that I think, for the most part, the evangelical church—and Christians as a whole—have really ignored the Lenten season—and knowing how best to celebrate, really, the most sacred of all holidays—Easter. I was listening to a good buddy of yours, Alistair Begg.
Dennis: You do a little work with him.
Dennis: Alistair was talking about the cross. He was talking about how it is the most significant sign-post in all of history. Easter is represented by the cross, but it’s also represented by the empty tomb—
Dennis: — “He is risen! He is risen indeed!”—and because of that, He has defeated death. It’s like it’s the Father’s stamp of approval upon the Son—saying: “You accomplished Your task. You died for their sins. You defeated death. Come and sit at the right hand of God, the Father.”
Bob: Well, your wife has some very practical suggestions for us on how we make that our focus in these weeks leading up to the celebration of the resurrection. Here’s Part Two of Barbara Rainey’s message on exalting Easter.
Barbara: I want to give you four suggestions for ways that you might begin to make Easter a more important holiday for you and your family. I would hope and pray that perhaps you would influence others—maybe, even your church—to find ways to celebrate Easter in a more meaningful way—that properly exalts and magnifies Him for what He has done for us.
Here’s my first suggestion on how to elevate Easter this year. Number one: “Forget the bunnies and the chicks.” They have absolutely nothing to do with Easter; and yet—I’ve been watching for the last few years—and that’s all there is in stores. That’s what I see on people’s front doors. It’s what I see in their yards. It’s what I see, everywhere, related to Easter.
Now, we Christians have found some really creative uses for eggs. FamilyLife has Resurrection Eggs® as a resource that we’ve created to help families or help churches communicate the gospel and the story of the resurrection to children—it is a dozen eggs. Each egg has a symbol of what happened in Jesus’ life—and it points to the resurrection—with the last egg being empty to illustrate the empty tomb.
But I’ve also thought through how interesting it is that Paul said in the Scripture, “And when I was a child I thought like a child, but when I became an adult I put away childish things.” Resurrection Eggs are for kids, and they’re great for kids; but I’m not going to decorate with bunnies and chicks anymore. I want my house to reflect the resurrection of Christ and what’s true about Him. I think part of the reason that we do focus on those things is because they’re cute, and they’re easy, and they’re nice. There are some facts about the resurrection that are not particularly attractive, and they’re not easy to know what to do with. So, my first suggestion is to get rid of those things that don’t have anything to do with Christ; and focus on Him.
My second suggestion is: “Don’t dismiss the difficult.” See, the resurrection is a real difficult concept; isn’t it?
It’s all about blood, it’s all about death, and it’s all about betrayal. It’s really hard—isn’t it?—for us to understand that. What’s Christmas about? It’s about a baby, it’s about presents, it’s about stars, and it’s about angels. Christmas is a feel-good holiday. Easter is not a feel-good holiday; but I think, as believers, we have to move into that which is difficult.
I don’t think we should run away from it. Jesus told us to commemorate His death. He told us to commemorate His resurrection. One of the things that He said—that I just can’t quite get over—He said in John 12:49, “I do nothing on my own initiative.” He said, “I always do the things that are pleasing to the Father.” Now, think about that for a minute. Jesus said, “I do nothing”— nothing—“nothing on my own initiative.”
Now, if you’re anything like me—and you are—I do lots of things on my own initiative. I’m always making decisions that are good for me. I’m always thinking about what I want to do / where I want to go. I do a lot on my own initiative. But Jesus never did one single thing on His own initiative—and because He did nothing on His own initiative, He rejected any whispers that He heard, in His ear, from the enemy, to walk away from the cross. He submitted His life to the evil plans of wicked priests, who had schemes that they were trying to work. He willingly shed His blood for you and for me.
So, I want to challenge you: “Don’t dismiss the difficult.” Walk into it. Think about it. Meditate on it.
Let your life go there because, if you do, Easter Sunday is going to mean so much more to you if you will let yourself focus on the difficult and think about those really hard concepts that are all wrapped up in Easter.
The third thing I want to challenge you to do is: “Focus on the Lamb.” If you want a softer symbol for Easter, the Lamb is it because, in the book of John—when John the Baptist saw Jesus—he called Him what?—the Lamb of God. He said, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”
When you focus on the Lamb, and you learn about what He did, and you learn about Passover, and you learn about the sacrifice that God required, then Easter Sunday is so much more meaningful because you understand why Jesus had to do what He had to do. To think that He did this because He loved us—it’s all the more stunning. It’s all the more shocking. So: “Focus on the Lamb”—learn about the Lamb.
Jesus said in Hebrews 10:5—He said, “A body Thou hast prepared for me.” The body Jesus had was destined, from the very beginning, to be slain for us because He was the Lamb of God. From the very beginning, Jesus was destined for sacrifice. He voluntarily gave His perfectly-lived life on the cross for me and for you. Good Friday is good because of the Lamb. So, I want to challenge you to: “Focus on the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”
And then number four: “I want to challenge you to marvel at the miracle.” Have you ever witnessed a miraculous event happen or have you been to a really amazing geographical place—like the Grand Canyon, or Niagara Falls, or Victoria Falls?—something that just takes your breath away? When you go to a place like that, or you see something like that, we’re often speechless.
I want to read something that John Piper says in his book—it’s called The Passion of Jesus Christ. It’s 50 chapters—just two little short-page chapters each—about all the reasons why Jesus had to die. He said:
The most astonishing thing is that evil and suffering were Christ’s appointed way of victory over evil and suffering. Every act of treachery and brutality against Jesus was sinful and evil, but God was in it. The Bible says, “Jesus was delivered up to death, according to the plan and foreknowledge of God.”
The lash on His back, the thorns on His head, the spit on His cheek, the bruises on His face, the nails in His hand, the desertion by the disciples, the betrayal of a friend, and the scorn of the rulers—all designed, by God, to destroy the power of sin. Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, did “whatever Your hand and Your plan had predetermined to take place.”
And that last verse is out of Acts.
So, when you think about what Jesus did for us, we should be speechless. We should be in awe. We should fall on our faces. That’s the kind of experience / that’s the kind of emotion—that’s what I think we need in Easter. It shouldn’t be a holiday that we just kind of go, “Oh well.” We need to feel some of what Jesus felt. We need to be in awe, and we need to marvel over what He did for us.
So how do you marvel at Easter? Do you prepare for days, creating an all-day celebration like none other, all year long?—maybe. That might be a good idea. Or do you jump, and cheer, and even cry for joy, as so many of us do for our favorite sports teams?
When was the last time you were in a group of people—and you celebrated Christ’s resurrection—and everyone jumped, and cheered, and screamed, and hollered, and did like this—like we do for sports teams?
I watch these stadiums—full of people—who are just jumping, and cheering, and just screaming their lungs out—but what do we do in church? It’s okay. We don’t all have to do that; but on Easter Sunday—on the day that Christ rose from the dead and rescued us?—for us to sit there as if it’s just any old other Sunday—I don’t think so! I don’t think so.
Another question: “Do you dance with abandon like David did when the Ark of the Covenant was returned to Jerusalem?” He was so exultant. He was so excited that God’s presence was back that he danced for joy. And again, I think that’s a good example for us to consider, as we think about Easter.
How can we, as parishioners—how can we, as the people of the church / as believers in Christ—make Easter something that calls out that kind of celebration, that kind of worship, that kind of joy in us?—so that the world says: “Well, I wonder what’s going on over there? Why are they so excited? I want to know!”
I want to challenge you to: “Make a difference this year.” I am praying, regularly, that God would grant us the favor, and the ideas, and the creativity, and the stamina, to come up with some really cool ideas for celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I’m praying that many of you will be a part of that—that many of you will think of some ideas—that many of you will come up with something that your church can do—what can you do to celebrate, all day, on Resurrection Sunday?
I believe that you can make a difference, and I believe that God wants to use you to make a difference in this holiday.
I want to mention a couple of things; but before I do that, I want to remind you of that verse: “Thou art coming to a King, large petitions with thee bring. For His grace and power are such, none can ever ask too much.” I want to challenge you to think about that in relation to your life, in relation to your church, in relation to Easter too. I want to close with a little prayer. It’s in the back of this book, by John Piper, that I think is really appropriate:
Father, I pray for us—I pray for all of us—that the fog of our indifference to eternal things would be lifted. I pray that the reality of heaven and hell would become clear to us. I pray that the centrality of Christ in the history of the world would become plain and that His passion, His sacrifice, His death would be seen as the most important event that ever happened.
I pray, Father, that You will grant me and many in this room ideas, and creativity, and motivation. Help us, Father, to elevate the celebration of Easter—the celebration of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection to a place that is worthy of what He did for us. I ask this that You might be honored and glorified. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
Bob: Amen. Well, again, today, we’ve been listening to the second part of a message from Barbara Rainey about the importance of exalting Easter. Of course, the Bible’s pretty clear on the fact that Easter is the center of it all.
Dennis: You know, if our listeners haven’t read 1 Corinthians 15 recently, they need to go read it. It’s a long chapter—but a great chapter because it talks about one of the most incredible events in all of human history.
It may be the most important event in all human history. It’s where the God-Man, Jesus, went to a cross; died on that cross for our sins; bore the weight / the punishment of God, the Father; and then was buried; and three days later defeated death; came back alive; appeared to Peter, and the disciples, and to a number of people; and then was transformed, 40 days later, to be seated at the right hand of God, the Father.
Paul writes—in 1Corinthians 15—he talks about how, “If Christ hasn’t been raised from the dead” then he says, “we are still in our sins.”
Dennis: He makes this statement—he says, “If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.”
Dennis: If Christ didn’t do that—we’re doomed in our sins—but He did do it. He did live a perfect life, He did go to the cross, and He did bear the penalty of our wrongdoing / our law-breaking before Almighty God. Then, He died and was buried; and then, on the third day, He defeated death and came back.
Because He’s alive, He offers eternal life to all.
Bob, you remember, a number of years ago, when we had a grandmother, who kind of came into the studio—and I don’t think either you or I had any idea of how significant the impact this basket full of eggs would have on millions of adults and children, around the world.
Bob: Yes. We’re going to hear more this week from that grandmother who first brought us the idea of Resurrection Eggs, which have now been distributed to more than a million and a half people, around the world.
Bob: It is an amazing—
Dennis: We figure that somewhere between 25 and 30 million children have heard the story of Jesus Christ’s life, death, burial, and resurrection from the dead, and that many of them have received Christ as Savior and Lord after hearing that story. I don’t know how many languages—they’re done in Spanish, Russian—I don’t know—do we have one in Mandarin that’s circulating in China? [Laughter] I’m sure somebody’s copied it over there—they should. It’s the greatest story ever told; and it’s a great story to tell in English, here in America.
Bob: And there’s something about getting to that last egg; especially, if you have a group of kids and they’ve all been opening different eggs. One of them opens the donkey, and they hear, from the booklet that’s included, about Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. And then one of them opens the egg that has the nails in it, and they hear about how Jesus was nailed to the cross. And one of them opens the egg that has the stone in it that represents the stone that was placed in front of the tomb. And then somebody opens the blue egg.
It’s the last one, and it’s empty. First, they think: “Uhh! There’s nothing in my egg,” and then they begin to realize, as you tell them the story, the reason there’s nothing in that egg is because the tomb is empty and Jesus is alive. It really brings the Easter story to life for kids. We’ve watched this happen, now for 20 years; in fact, we have just put together our 20th Anniversary set of Resurrection Eggs—all new for 2014. The booklet is in English and in Spanish so you can use it cross-culturally if you’d like.
You can give these eggs as gifts to people you know during the Easter season, as a way to share your faith with them at Easter time. Find out more about the Resurrection Eggs and about the resources that Barbara Rainey has created to emphasize Easter in your home during this season.
Go to FamilyLifeToday.com. In the upper left-hand corner of the page, there’s a button that says, “Go Deeper.” When you click on that blue box, it’ll take you to an area of the site where there’s more information about the Resurrection Eggs. You can order them, online, from us if you’d like—about the resources Barbara Rainey has created—you can order those from us, online, if you’d like.
I know that Resurrection Eggs are also available in some local Christian bookstores, as well. I know LifeWay stores have them. I think Mardel has them—even Walmart® has them this year. So, if you’re interested in getting a set of Resurrection Eggs, either go to your local Christian store; your local Walmart; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY and order them from us over the phone: 1-800-358-6329; or go, online, to order at: FamilyLifeToday.com. Again, click the button that says, “Go Deeper,” in the upper left-hand side of the screen.
You know, part of the reason that we emphasize things like the Resurrection Eggs and the resources Barbara Rainey is creating at Easter time is because we’ve been told by listeners that the number one issue that they would like help from us on is the issue of passing on a spiritual legacy to the next generation.
Ultimately, what matters most to us, as parents, is not that our kids learn how to handle money wisely, although that’s important; not that we try to cure sibling rivalry; or that we deal with bed-wetting; but the issue that parents are most concerned about is the issue of your child’s spiritual development: “What can you do, as a mom or a dad, to make sure that they hear clearly the message of the gospel?” and, “How can you pray for them to be transformed by God’s Spirit?” That’s what FamilyLife Today is all about—practical, biblical help for your marriage and for your family.
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Now, tomorrow, we want to encourage you to join us back here. We’re going to head to the vault and pull out an interview we did more than 20 years ago—the first time we ever talked about sharing the Easter story with children. You’ll hear from the grandmother who had the idea for the Resurrection Eggs, who shared that idea with us, back 20 years ago. I hope you can tune in for that interview.
I want to thank our engineer today—his name is 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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