Setting the Easter Table
About the Guest
Barbara Rainey, a wife, mother, and grandmother, shares easy ways to make the holiday meal more meaningful this Easter. Set the mood through an easy tablescape complete with inexpensive candles adorned with inspiring messages.
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
Barbara Rainey, a wife, mother, and grandmother, shares easy ways to make the holiday meal more meaningful this Easter.
Setting the Easter Table
Bob: Does Easter at your house mean new shoes for the kids, Easter baskets on Sunday morning, maybe, some ham for dinner? Barbara Rainey believes it ought to mean more.
Barbara: What has always bothered me about Easter Sunday is that it’s all condensed into the morning; and after you have your Easter meal, it’s over. The TV comes on, and people start doing homework—just life goes back to normal. My vision and my desire—and what we’re going to try to do this year—is extend it for the entire day. We probably won’t do our Easter meal at lunch. We’ll probably do it late afternoon or at dinner so that we can light candles, and string lights up, and really make it festive.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, March 30th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey. I’m Bob Lepine. What will Easter look like at your home this year, and what will the weeks leading up to Easter look like?
We’ll spend time talking about that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition. I just want to make sure—we’ve been talking all this week about how we can heighten the significance of Passion Week, and of Good Friday, and Easter Sunday. I’m all for that, but this doesn’t mean the end of baskets; does it? I mean, this—you’ll still get a basket—
Dennis: —and chocolate Easter bunnies.
Bob: —and some jelly beans. For Mary Ann—
Barbara: You like marshmallow Peeps®.
Bob: I do like marshmallow Peeps. [Laughter]
Dennis: We have—
Barbara: I remembered that.
Dennis: —we have the broadcast on Bob’s—
Barbara: Yes; we do.
Dennis: —love for marshmallow Peeps.
Barbara: I remember that.
Bob: But for Mary Ann, it’s the Reese’s® eggs.
Barbara: Eggs; yes.
Bob: Those are—it’s not—the cups—somehow, it’s different—
Barbara: It’s different—it is different.
Bob: —when you eat the Reese’s egg than when you eat the regular Reese’s peanut butter cup.
Dennis: You know, you completely destroyed the whole—
Bob: —the whole tone and tenor?
Dennis: —the whole tone of this. We’re trying to think about the Easter celebration, starting on Friday all the way through Sunday, of being a celebration set apart like none other.
Bob: And we’re doing this because it’s a passion of our guest, who is back with us, again, today—your wife Barbara. Welcome.
Barbara: Thank you, Bob.
Bob: This is something you are passionate about. Can we just sneak an Easter egg?
Barbara: You can have your chocolate.
Barbara: I have to say—when you talked about Easter baskets, though, that was one of the fun responses that I got last year—
Barbara: —to the survey we’ve been talking about—the survey that we—
Bob: Explain the survey; yes.
Barbara: Well, last year, after Easter, I did a survey of a bunch of women—primarily women, but I had some responses from men, too, which I was thrilled with—about “What do you do to celebrate Easter? How do you make it meaningful? What are some of the things that you do that I could share with others?”
We got some great ideas; but one of the responses came from my daughter-in-law, Stephanie. Stephanie wrote back and she said, “It never occurred to me that I don’t have to do Easter baskets.” I said, “Really?” So, I called her; and we talked about it. She said: “I just thought that was a part of what you had to do. Everybody does Easter baskets.
Bob: Requirement as a parent; yes.
Barbara: “I thought you…”—yes. And she said, “I just realized this year, I don’t have to do Easter baskets. I don’t have to buy little presents for my kids and make sure they all have the same amount of stuff.”
Bob: The police will not lock you up if you don’t do—
Barbara: She said, “I’m not doing Easter baskets anymore.” But you can still do chocolate / you can still do candy.
Bob: I would hope so. I don’t—
Barbara: Put it in little bowls or something.
Bob: Did you talk to her to find out how it went after Easter with the kids when she said—
Barbara: Well, that was after Easter last year she came to that conclusion. We haven’t had an Easter without baskets yet. So, we’ll see.
Bob: We’re going to have to see how the kids respond: “Where’s…? There’s no…Mom!!! No Easter baskets!” Did you do egg hunts in your yard around Easter?
Barbara: We used to do big egg hunts in our yard around Easter—
—invited all kinds of people.
Dennis: You were there, Bob.
Bob: That’s true. You did invite many of the staff to come over for your big Easter—
Dennis: We had a bunch of plastic eggs out there. Then, for a number of years, I would find them out in the woods.
Barbara: The kids didn’t see them. [Laughter]
Dennis: Yes; not months—years. I mean, we hadn’t had that in years; but we had one section that was kind of partitioned off with string that was only for those parents who had children in attendance who wanted to go home with something live—
Dennis: —like a bunny.
Barbara: —or a chick or a kitten. I think we may have had a kitten one year. Anyway, so most parents wouldn’t let their kids hunt in that area. [Laughter]
Bob: “No; not going near that thing.” So, the Raineys are stuck with chicks and bunnies when it’s all over.
Bob: So, let’s go to Easter Sunday—
Barbara: Yes; let’s do.
Bob: —the day itself. When I think about Easter Sunday, I think about the baskets, I think about going to church, I think about new shoes and new clothes, and I think about ham. I mean, we always had ham on Easter; and we would have—
Barbara: We did too.
Bob: —a nice meal on Easter. Although, it was always a little trickier for Mom to make Easter dinner; because you’ve got to go to church first and then Easter dinner right after that—it was kind of a headache for her.
Barbara: Yes; I always thought it was a challenge too. There just wasn’t enough time between getting home and the time we needed to sit down and eat. So, I’m suggesting you don’t have to have your big, fancy meal after church. You can wait and do it later in the day, like we do at Thanksgiving—mid-afternoon /early evening—or even have your big, fancy Easter meal be an evening meal. It doesn’t have to be right after church.
And in some ways, I think that’s better because that creates a bit of a buffer between getting home from church, and preparing for the big meal, and having the big meal. What has always bothered me about Easter Sunday is that it’s all condensed into the morning; and after you have your Easter meal, it’s over. The TV goes on, and people start doing homework—just life goes back to normal.
My vision and my desire—and what we’re going to try to do this year—is extend it for the entire day. So, we probably won’t do our Easter meal at lunch. We’ll probably do it late afternoon or at dinner so that we can light candles, and string lights up, and really make it festive. I need the time to be able to do that—so we’re not going to probably do it right after church.
Bob: You think you have to do a big meal on Easter?
Barbara: No; but I think us having a meal together is a great way to fellowship—it’s a great way to be together. Jesus did so much around meals when He was on earth. He ate with Zacchaeus. He went to Matthew’s house, the tax collector. The Last Supper, of course, was really important in the life of Jesus. A lot of what He did was around food, and around celebrations, and around people gathering together.
So, I think a meal—a special meal, where you eat different kinds of food and you create an amazing table—
—we call it a tablescape. Do you guys know that word?
Bob: A tablescape?
Barbara: A tablescape.
Dennis: You hadn’t shared that with me.
Barbara: I thought that might be new to both of you. [Laughter]
Dennis: Why have you—
Barbara: It’s kind of fun! [Laughter]
Dennis: —why have you not talked to me about this, dear?
Barbara: Well, a tablescape is really just creating—I guess, it comes from the word, landscape—but it’s just creating a beautiful centerpiece or some kind of something on the table. It doesn’t have to be elaborate / it doesn’t have to be expensive. One of the things I’m going to do is—I’m going to buy a whole bunch of white pillar candles—and you can buy them inexpensively, online, for not much money. We’ve got a DIY kit, which—do you guys know what DIY is?
Bob: I do know that; yes.
Barbara: What is it?
Bob: Do It Yourself.
Barbara: Oh, very good.
Bob: Thank you.
Barbara: We have a DIY kit that’s a free download, and we’re going to have the instructions for how to do it; but you can put these really nicely designed labels on all of the candles. I’ve got some of them right here.
Dennis: Oh, yes.
Barbara: We’ve got one that says, “I am the light of the world,” / another one that says, “Christ has risen.”
A third one says, “Tetelestai.”
Dennis: Now, was this on our website and just easily printed?
Barbara: Yes; it is. It’s on our website, and it can be downloaded. You print it on your printer at home. Then, we’ll have the instructions on how you apply it to the candle.
Dennis: Yes; I mean, it looks professional—
Barbara: Yes; I know—it really does.
Dennis: —like the candle was made,—
Barbara: —that way; yes.
Dennis: —saying, “I am the light of the world.”
Bob: So—and by the way, these are like—what are they?—three-inch candles / four-inch candles—something like that.
Bob: So, it’s a fat, white candle—
Bob: —but it’s—the verses look really nice on them.
Barbara: Yes, they look really cool; don’t they?
Bob: They do.
Barbara: And I just think—think about it—Jesus said, when He was on earth, “I am the light of the world.” And we’ve already talked this week about how, when He died, the light of the world was extinguished; and the disciples felt that—He was dead / He was gone. The light of the world was gone. So, how fun, on Easter morning, to have candles on your table that you light and proclaim that Jesus, the light of the world, is in fact alive again:
“He is risen!”
Bob: You want there to be more than just a meal on Easter, though? You want it to be a full-blown party.
Barbara: I think it should be a party. I mean, stop and think about what the disciples felt. Do you think they heard that Jesus was alive and they went: “Oh, that’s great! I need to run to the grocery store,” or “Jesus is alive. Oh, gosh; that’s such great news, but we’ve got ball practice”? I just don’t think they did. I think they were so stunned, so blown-away, so overwhelmed, so amazed. I think our celebration on Easter Sunday needs to replicate that in some way.
So, I want to have music playing the whole time. If we do it outside—and I’m not totally sure, because of weather, yet how we are going to do this—but we may do it outside. If we do it, I’m going to stream lights all over the place. We’re still going to have candles on the table. We’re going to have music. I would love for us to have dancing; because I think the disciples were so excited when they found out that Jesus was alive that they didn’t just say, “Oh, that’s great.”
I think they were probably jumping up and down. I mean, I think there needs to be some exuberance / some expression that is pure joy. I think we need to do more of that.
Bob: Dennis, when Barbara says, “I’m going to string lights,” does she mean she will be stringing lights or—[Laughter]
Dennis: You and I both know—[Laughter]—we both know what that means.
I just want to comment on what she’s talking about here. You know, we celebrate the Super Bowl, the World Series, the NBA Championships—and I’ve seen you, Bob—I’ve seen you come out of your seat,—
Dennis: —cheering, yelling, screaming. It’s interesting—a lot of the people that go to those big games and big championships—or against a rival team—how expressive they are on a Saturday afternoon. You take those same people, and you plop them down in church on Sunday morning—
—especially, on Resurrection Sunday morning—and they are subdued / they are quiet. They wouldn’t think of us cheering—
Dennis: —that Jesus defeated death: “There’s hope! There is life eternal! I’m forgiven! You know, like some of the people He healed couldn’t stop praising God. I think we’re really in need of recalibrating which is most exciting—a sporting event or something that affects eternity—seriously!
Barbara: Yes; something that has changed our lives forever.
Bob: You know, it was more than two decades ago that somebody first shared with us the idea of using plastic eggs to tell the story of the Passion Week. And in the past 20 years, we’ve had like one and a half million dozen eggs that have—
Dennis: That’s exactly right—1.5 million dozen eggs have now gone out in the English language.
We’ve got them translated into Mandarin,—
Barbara: —and Spanish.
Dennis: —Russian. And we figure, conservatively, that 20 million / maybe, 30 million children have heard the story of Jesus and have found out about the egg that is empty, which represents the empty tomb on Resurrection Sunday.
Bob: So, something like “Resurrection Eggs®” is a way to include younger kids in your Easter Day celebration. You can do it as an Easter egg hunt, but you could also just have them pull an egg out of a basket at the dinner table; can’t you?
Barbara: I know other families—and that’s one of the stories that came back to us. As their kids were older, they just put a basket of the “Resurrection Eggs” in the middle of the table / passed the basket around. Everybody took one; and then, they took turns opening the egg, seeing what was in there, and then telling what they remembered about that symbol from the Easter story.
I think the “Resurrection Eggs” are a great way to engage kids / involve kids—you can do the egg hunt in the afternoon before you have the dinner in the afternoon or evening or pass them around the table and let the adults all talk about them.
Bob: You brought in here today a set of placemats. Are these new? I don’t think I’ve seen these before.
Barbara: You haven’t; have you?
Barbara: No; these are brand-new this year. I’m really excited because I think, if feasting / if having a gathering of family and friends at Easter is going to feel celebratory, then, we need things that help us set a table that’s different than what we have on day-to-day meals. So, we’ve created these placemats. They are white, and they are printed with gold—which I think is perfect because Jesus is the King, and He is crowned with gold. They all have a phrase about Easter: “Hallelujah / He is Risen” is one. “[Hallelujah / Jesus] is alive!” is a second one. What does yours say, Dennis?
Dennis: “Hallelujah / It is finished!”
Bob: Then, this one says, “Hallelujah / Christ is victorious!”
Bob: Yes; so a set of these at the dinner table—or you may need two or three sets depending on the size of your family—but it’s just another way to declare what the celebration is all about.
Barbara: Yes; it’s a reminder that we are here to celebrate the victory that Christ won for us on the cross. These can be used at an outdoor picnic with paper plates and plastic silverware; or you can use them in a dining room with China and fine glassware—whatever you want to do. They work for whatever kind of table you want to set for your celebration.
Bob: You know, there are some moms—who are hearing about stringing lights, and making your own candles with Bible verses on them, and placemats, and tablescapes—and they just go: “Barbara, that’s not me. Okay? I’m just not that kind of a person.”
Dennis: Now, wait a second! I would ask them, “What kind of person are you at Thanksgiving?” Maybe, you’re not that way at Thanksgiving either.
Bob: “I’m a keep-it-simple person; okay? So, we set a nice table; but I just don’t do a whole lot of stuff.
“I get exhausted hearing you talk about this. And now, I feel like I’m not much of a godly mom if I don’t do this; but I’m just under the pile.” So, what do you say to me?
Barbara: I used to feel that way. I mean, when we had all of our kids at home—all six of them—I mean, that’s why I didn’t do a lot at Easter; because I was overwhelmed and busy. But if I had access to a real simple way to take some pillar candles, I’d get my kids involved in putting these printed labels on the candles. And we only had—there are only four [designs]. I’m probably going to do a dozen candles, because we’ve got over 30 people going to be at our table. We’re going to have a really long table and four candles won’t be enough.
Dennis: And we don’t want to burn the house down.
Barbara: No; well, we’re probably going to be outside. But anyway—
Dennis: And by the way, if I had a child that was really gifted, musically—like Bob was when he was a kid—I would assign them to find the Easter music—
Dennis: —to play, not only in the preparation of the food and preparing the table, but also during the meal as well.
Barbara: Yes. I think getting the candles is not that hard—and if it is too much and you can’t get it done—then, just put white candles on the table; because candles make something festive, even if you don’t have time to download the DIY and put them on there.
Bob: So, you may not be Martha Stewart—
Bob: —or even come close to that—but to do something that says, “Today is different than the other days.”
Barbara: And that’s the whole point—is to do something on Easter that is different than any other day of the year, because Easter is unlike any other day of the year. Find a way to make it be something special.
Dennis: Bob, you were out at our house, back before Christmas this year—the leadership of FamilyLife got together. Barbara and I had the privilege of treating you all to one of our delicacies.
Dennis: We enjoyed hosting you all, but Barbara had the table set. When you walked into our house, you had to notice the beauty—I noticed Mary Ann with her camera, going around, taking pictures to see how Barbara had set it up—
—and it was all around the theme of Christmas.
What Barbara is talking about here is really not that different. It’s taking a season—two or three days—and taking the time to declare the message—in as creative a way as possible / in an elegant way—because the God, who made 40,000 different kinds of butterflies / who slung a billion galaxies into outer space—He is a God worthy of praise.
Bob: You were talking about putting together a playlist or coming up with the songs for Easter. Do you have a favorite Easter hymn—something that comes to mind?
Barbara: Oh, I have lots of them. In fact, I started, actually, just yesterday or the day before, making a list so that I can actually create my own playlist. But you know, we grew up singing Up from the Grave He Arose and those classic Easter hymns. It just doesn’t feel like Easter to me if we don’t sing those.
But I also love In Christ Alone and The Resurrection Song—I think that’s the name of that particular song that I just love. There are a lot that I love that I think are appropriate to play. I mean, how many hymns must we have about the resurrection?—probably, hundreds.
Bob: Favorite that stands out for you?
Dennis: Well, I have a number of them.
I think my encouragement to a listener is: “Find a hymn that has both a melody and words that emotionally touch you; because I think a good bit of worship involves our intellect, involves our emotions, and it also involves our will. I think Easter ought to be a time that moves all three. It ought to move us to think about who Jesus Christ is and where He is today, seated at the right hand of God. It ought to move us to emotionally think about His death, and the love that was poured out on the cross, and the hope that is there because the tomb is empty / our Savior is alive.
“It also ought to transform us—it ought to impact our behavior, our lives, and our obedience the other 364 days of the year.”
Bob: I’ll just say—it doesn’t feel like Easter to me if, by the end of the day, I have not sung Christ the Lord Is Risen Today. You’ve got to start with that; right?
Barbara: I agree.
Bob: And then, to sing, “When I survey the wondrous cross upon which the Prince of Glory died, my richest gain I count as loss and pour contempt on all my pride,”—those are great words.
And of course, the Charles Wesley hymn: “And can it be that I should gain an interest in the Savior’s blood”—the scene where he talks about the quickening ray that comes into the dungeon—“my chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.” “Amazingly love! How can it be…”
Then, in recent years, Keith and Kristyn Getty’s great hymn, The Power of the Cross, is one I get goose bumps singing that—
—anytime we sing it in church or anytime I’m in my car, listening to it and singing along with it. Before we’re done here today, we’ll play a little of that great hymn from the Getty’s.
But I want to encourage our listeners, before they hear that, to go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, and review the resources Barbara Rainey has been developing for the Easter season—all designed to try to increase our awareness of the Easter season, and the resurrection of Christ, and the celebration that that is for us. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com and review the resources Barbara has and see if there are any you’d like to order to have around your house this year during the Easter season. Again, our website is FamilyLifeToday.com. You can order from us online; or if you’d prefer, call 1-800-FL-TODAY to order any of these beautiful resources from Barbara Rainey.
You know, as we’ve talked about Easter and the weeks leading up to Easter today, we’re really talking about what ought to be an ongoing way of thinking at your house—and that is, “How can I take advantage of today in order to drive home spiritual truth into the hearts of my kids and into my own heart?” We all suffer from spiritual forgetfulness. We all have the experience of, day in and day out, forgetting the gospel and wanting to rely on our own good works to justify us. We need to be regularly reminded of the truth of the gospel—that’s foundational to every healthy, godly marriage and family.
When you find a family that is thriving—at the core foundational level for that family—you’re going to find an understanding of grace, and an understanding of forgiveness, and an understanding of God’s transforming work in our lives, and a hope for the future—
—all because of Christ, who is Himself, the Gospel. We appreciate those of you who share our conviction that this message needs to be understood and communicated to more and more people throughout the world. In fact, every time you make a contribution in support of this ministry, your contribution is saying, “This message needs to be heard by more and more people.” That’s what we do. We take the money you invest, and we use it to more broadly disseminate God’s truth, related to marriage and family. We are grateful for your partnership with us.
In fact, if you can make a donation today, we’d love to express our gratitude by sending you a set of “Resurrection Eggs,” the tool that we created years ago to help parents and grandparents share the story of Easter with their preschool and elementary-aged children and grandchildren. We’ll send you a set of “Resurrection Eggs” when you make an online donation at FamilyLifeToday.com.
Or request them when you donate by phone at 1-800-FL-TODAY; or when you mail your donation to FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, Arkansas—Arkansas is AR, by the way—and our zip code is 72223.
Now, tomorrow, we’ve got some final thoughts from Barbara Rainey about why it’s important for us to keep Easter central to our thinking, not just during this time of the year, but all year long. We’ll talk about that tomorrow. I hope you can be with us 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 tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas. Help for today. Hope for tomorrow.
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