Most Christians would agree that they would like to get more out of Church on Sunday. With hectic schedules and unexpected emergencies, many times we are struggling just to get to church on Sundays and much less what spiritual fulfillment we will get out of it. For pastors, Easter is the Superbowl of Sunday church services, and there is no better time for you to get into the fullness of God than on Resurrection Sunday.
Here are 9 Ways To Get the Most Out Of Easter Sunday:
1. Attend a Passion Play (preferably on Good Friday)
Many people are are visual learners. Sure we read the story of the crucifixion a dozen or so times a year, but many have never truly experienced the power of watching the Jesus character endure the beatings and the cross. Although many passion performances have some gruesome images, there are still several that are family friendly. A Good Friday passion performance may help you better understand the miracle of Easter morning and get you ready to celebrate on Easter Sunday. If you are unable to attend a passion play, many can be brought to your DVD player: consider substituting a play for Passion of the Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, The Gospel of John or even pieces of the Bible Mini Series that aired on History Channel. For kids you can watch the animated or live action version of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. With kids, talk about how Aslan’s death mirrors Jesus in that he died for his friends.
2. Have Communion with your Family the Thursday before Easter
Perhaps you want a personal or intimate atmosphere by which you celebrate Easter with your family. Some churches celebrate this day as Maundy Thursday but consider taking communion after dinner on Thursday before Good Friday. This is the day that traditional protestant churches recognize as Jesus’ last passover and the Last Supper. To make this even more special invite your pastor or Sunday School class over and have a traditional Passover meal that precedes communion. Consider making your own unleavened bread so that you don’t have to use the often times stale styrofoam textured wafers. If a church in your area actually has a Maundy Thursday service you could just attend it as well. Most kids or teens may not initially enjoy going to church in the middle of the week but if you are non-confrontational with them and strongly encourage them to give it a chance many will eventually value these events and look forward to reliving the passion of Christ and appreciate the meaning of His resurrection.
3. Celebrate the Holy Week with 7 Crosses
Perhaps you are a tactile learner and want something you can see, feel, and touch. Seven is such a sacred number in scripture and is often times used to symbolize completion or blessings. On the Monday after Palm Sunday consider setting up an in home cross visual. Each day of the week from Monday to Thursday add one cross to the display, then on Good Friday add the last 3 as a symbol of Jesus and the 2 thieves. On Saturday have a time of prayer as you remove all 7 crosses, you could even read the story of his death at this time. Use this visual to teach kids about Jesus and why he had to die. Another possible option would be to use the 7 crosses as references to teach yourself or your family about the 7 deadly sins. If you want something more somber and meaningful, use them for a personal study of the 7 last sayings of Jesus on the Cross. What is neat about this idea is that you can custom make these cross with you kids to get them invested in the idea or just buy some decorative ones that everyone will like.
4. Attend a Sunrise Service
A well planned and well executed Sunrise Service can be an awesome way to get the most out of Easter Sunday. With songs like, “He’s Alive” or “Up From The Grave He Arose” it is hard not to feel the power of Resurrection Sunday. Even if your church doesn’t have an official Sunrise Service, have one with your family where you read the story together. A well planned Holy Week for most churches usually consist of a celebratory Palm Sunday (sometimes with real palm branches), a somber Good Friday service (usually with somber prayers, hammer sounds, and dim lighting), a powerful Sunrise Service (usually outside where you can experience the rising sun (rising son), and a Hallelujah themed Easter service. If your church doesn’t celebrate these services, consider visiting a sister church of like faith in your area that does (I don’t advise you doing this on Easter Sunday, this is definitely a day to attend your home church). As a southern Baptist, I once attended a Good Friday service at a Catholic church in my area and since I wasn’t accustomed to their traditions, I was hyper aware of everything going on and ended up learning a lot. In my own church, it is easy to just exist but in a church I wasn’t used to I was alert about everything that I liked and didn’t like. It was a powerful experience and in some ways it was a very uncomfortable experience for me. However, I truly believe we can get the most out of this Holy Week when we allow ourselves to experience the full emotions of the season. These services can really put us in the right direction in our personal walks with God and sometimes that is best done in an environment we aren’t comfortable or familiar with.
5. Pray, Journal, and Fast
The idea of a daily prayer and devotion time can seem intimidating to many of us. To commit to do something EVERY DAY for the REST OF OUR LIVES can often leave us defeated before even beginning. As the old proverb says, “the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. Try prayer/devotional writing with a shorter commitment time first. For example, set up a devotion time for just 7 days, from Palm Sunday to Saturday. Use this time to pray, journal, or fast as these disciplines can be an encouraging and powerful way to get the most out of the week. If you are really into reading, consider working and journaling through a book such as, 24 Hours That Changed the World by Adam Hamilton or Believe: The Hope Of Easter by Randy Frazee. If these don’t interest you, there are many other options available as well. If you are like me and not into reading as much consider devotional writing through the 4 accounts of the Crucifixion as found in the 4 Gospels or journaling through Psalms 22-24. Another option is to consider just fasting on Saturday between Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. Use that time to pray and read the story of Jesus Triumphant entry as your spiritual “breakfast”, his last supper and arrest as your spiritual “lunch”, and his death and resurrection as your spiritual “dinner”. Read and devotion during the time that you would be eating those meals.
6. Consider Celebrating the Easter Bunny or doing Egg Hunts on Saturday Morning and Afternoon
There isn’t a rule that says the Easter Bunny only visits on Easter Sunday morning. Think Christmas and Santa! I know that many kids celebrate at least a part of Christmas on Christmas eve so that there are less obligations on Christmas Day. I definitely believe that Sunday is a great time to be with family but if you can move any of those obligations to Saturday you won’t feel so rushed and distracted on Sunday at church. This day after all is about him first. You may even decided to take family Easter pictures on Saturday so that you don’t have to worry about your kids getting grease stains or marker paint on their new outfit in Sunday School before the after church photography session. Wearing out your kids on Saturday may make it easier to get them in bed Saturday night so that everyone is well rested for Sunday. We don’t want to look like the dead when celebrating the living Christ do we?
7. Play Handel’s Messiah as your Family gets Dressed for Church or Opens Easter Baskets
I wish I could stake claim to this idea, but this came from Focus on the family. Handel’s Messiah is such a great musical piece and allowing the timeless strains of “Comfort Ye,” “All We Like Sheep” and the “Hallelujah Chorus” to fill you home will set the stage for a great Easter Sunday. If you aren’t a fan of Messiah, try building a playlist of your favorite Easter songs and celebrate the Resurrection.
8. Easter Decorations and Easter Crafts
Easter decor doesn’t just have to be about Bunnies, Eggs, and Chicks…it can be about the palms, thorns, cross, and stone. Another Focus on the Family idea is to spend the night before Palm Sunday weekend decorating the mantle other surface with a total visual focus of the Easter story. It can include olive wood, a donkey figurine, palm branches, some unleavened bread, a handmade wooden cross, and a large rock with a hollowed-out center that resembles a tomb. Having a timeline of the season can be a great way to help you get in the mood for the Holy Week, before it even begins. For families with kids or for the artsy type, I found a blog that has some great Easter crafts that may open up dialogue with kids about the season. [Click here]
9. Plant an Easter Garden
This alone won’t really help you get the most out of Easter, but it does make a great object lesson for kids. To this day, I can’t remember things I learned in high school but I can remember just about every quality craft I did in kindergarten. Being able to touch, feel, taste, hear, and interact with those crafts left an impression and I will never forget the lessons that went with them. If planned a good bit in advanced, planting an Easter Garden that buds Easter week can be a great way to teach the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. Not to mention a nice garden is something everyone can enjoy and gets kids out of the house and into the sun. If you are too late for an Easter garden from seeds, just transplant flowers that have already bloomed, kids are smart and will get the idea and you will feel refreshed that you have a beautiful garden.
What are some ways you celebrate the Easter Season? Perhaps there are more ways we can get the most out of Easter and the Holy Week? Comment and let me know what you think!