When I was a little girl Easter always meant the same things: A new dress, a big basket of chocolate, Easter egg hunts, a big family meal, and of course, the most elaborate church service of the year. Until I was about thirteen years old, we carried on these traditions year after year.
What changed then?
Well, it was around that time that our family decided to leave the very unhealthy church we were attending and began attending a fantastic church about an hour away from our home. For me, this church was love at first sight. Every week I couldn’t wait to go. When Easter came, they always did an over-the-top, amazing Easter spectacular—a can’t miss event. Unfortunately, our relatives thought it was unreasonable to ask them to wait until 1 or 1:30 pm to eat Easter dinner. They told us, “Lunch is served at noon—if you aren’t there, sorry Charlie.”
So, Easter changed. There were no more big family dinners…in fact, we usually ate at McDonald’s after church. Still, even though this part of the holiday changed, we didn’t mind because we still had church (and usually a new dress and chocolate).
This was the first time Easter changed.
The next time I was in my twenties and this was far more dramatic. For those of you know our story, you’ve already heard that after college, God took my life down a very difficult and unusual route. One of the things that was very unusual was that for years, because of my Mom’s health and my Dad’s abusive behavior toward her, Jamie and I could not let them alone together. Since my Dad had off work on Sundays, we couldn’t physically attend church and leave them alone. This included Easter.
So we went through a few Easters where we could not attend church. Because we couldn’t attend church, there was no reason for a fancy new dress. By this time we were uninvited to family gatherings and we were too old for egg hunts. While, yeah, I still had some chocolate, during this period of our lives most of the “holiday” traditions surrounding this day were gone.
But we still celebrated Easter.
This year, as so many are facing Easter without church or many of the holiday trimmings that surround the big day, I wanted to share our story to encourage you that it is TOTALLY possible to celebrate Resurrection Day at home with your family.
The first thing you need to do is: Remember what you are celebrating.
In our American culture, it’s easy to get caught up in the holiday traditions and almost let the reason for the season take a back seat to the celebration. It’s easy to become like Martha and get so worried about the details of the family meal, the gifts, the Easter egg hunt, the clothes, the church production or outreach, that we forget Who we are celebrating. (Luke 10:38-42) This year, we all have the unique opportunity to be Marys and focus on the true meaning of Resurrection Sunday.
Some practical ways this leading up to Easter are:
1. As a family or with a group of friends, reread the portions of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John that tell the stories of The Last Supper, Jesus’ betrayal, His trial, His death, and His resurrection.
Try reading them in a modern translation or taking turns reading them aloud. Remember that this is the true meaning of Easter. Focus on them.
2. Listen to music about Easter and the resurrection.
One of my favorite memories was that every year on the Saturday night before Easter, our local Christian radio station would do a marathon of Easter songs. Around midnight, they’d end the marathon with some all-time classics like Carmen’s “Sunday’s on the Way”, the Second Chapter of Acts’ “The Easter Song”, or Don Francisco’s “He’s Alive.” Every year I’d listen with my Mom and brother. We’d sing along and sometimes even be moved to tears by the images of Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection. It was a beautiful time of worship just listening to the radio.
A decade later, we have so many more options for how to listen to music, but the principle is still the same: worship isn’t just for Sunday Mornings. The most important thing we can do over Easter week is to worship Jesus for what He did at the cross, for saving our souls, for the promise of eternal life and all we have been given because of Resurrection Day.
Even if you can’t be in “church” you can worship.
3. Watch Easter Productions online.
Many of the larger churches who usually have Easter productions are replaying productions from earlier years. My own church is doing this. During some of the long evenings at home, it would be nice to watch as a family.
Then on Easter Sunday,
1. Get Up, Get Dressed, and Go to Church (In Your Livingroom)
So I know a lot of churches are advertising pajamas in your pjs (and trust me, I’ve been in mine the past two weeks). But this is Easter—make it special.
Gather everyone together, get up, get dressed, and watch church online.
Sing along when they worship, listen to the sermon, and by all means, pay your tithe.
This is what I did a few years ago when Jamie woke up Easter morning with the flu. I turned on an online service and celebrated Easter. I remember it was the first time I ever heard the song “Glorious Day” and it’s been one of my favorites ever since.
The truth is that the holiday will be what you make it. So make it a special event as you watch church online.
2. Start a Watch Party
One of the things that people will be missing this Easter is the sense of community. Then there is the fact that Easter is considered to be one of the biggest outreach days of the year.
Thanks to online technology, this doesn’t have to end, it can just be adjusted. In the days leading up to Easter, make posts inviting everyone you know to attend online church with you. Be sure to give them the time and how to access it including if it is available on Youtube or at a website as well as on Facebook. (This is important for people who don’t use Facebook.)
Then on Easter, start a watch party and invite all of your friends to watch with you. Who knows who might tune into a church in their homes that wouldn’t go through the hassle of getting up, getting dressed and going into a building filled with strangers?
Let’s look at this as an opportunity, folks, and invite everyone we know to church this Easter.
3. Make it the best Easter service ever.
If you are helping to plan your churches online Easter service let me briefly say: don’t skimp out just because it’s online. Remember there are actually more eyes and hearts watching than ever. Let’s give this all we’ve got and reach people for Jesus.
4. Make it a Marathon
As I said in the beginning, over the years, church has become something that people “squeeze in” over Easter. Even though we say it’s the main event, it really is squeezed in between dinners and recreational activities.
Well, this year, church on tv is going to be the main event. So while I know this may sound crazy, here’s an idea: Watch more than one service. Maybe even share more than one service on Facebook. This give you more opportunity to worship, to hear the Word and reach more people. But it’s just a thought.
5. Consider having Communion at Home.
For many people, Communion is a vital part of their Easter celebration. While most of the time, we save Communion for church, I don’t think God would have any problem at all with taking communion at home during this time. Really, this is a beautiful way to remember the true meaning of Easter and ‘remember Christ’s death until He comes’.
While many churches will be making communion a part of their online services, if yours is not, do it yourself. It’s really simple:
—Create a worshipful atmosphere.
—Use bread and grape juice.
—Read 1 Corinthians 11:23-17.
—Pray over each piece and allow a few moments for personal reflection.
—End with a prayer
Just as Jesus and His disciples took Communion at the Last Supper, you can do Communion at home.
Finally, finish off your celebration by finding alternative ways to carry on the tradition.
Even though I believe it is important that we focus on the religious aspects of Easter above all else, I understand that there are parts of the ‘holiday’ that we hold dear. While we can’t have everything the way it usually is, there are still things we can do to make the day special.
—-Have a special dinner with your immediate family.
—-Call or Skype family members you can’t see in person.
—Take the traditional family Easter picture and post it online. Be creative—it’ll be fun.
—-Enjoy some Easter chocolate. After all, candy factories were deemed essential in PA—you can order online and still enjoy.
You see what I’ve learned having lived through this before is that Easter wlll be what you make it. You can celebrate and have a beautiful Easter Sunday even if it isn’t like every other year. You can still worship Jesus, invite people to church, and make memories with those you love. You just have to make some adjustments—-to your attitude and your schedule.
Then do all you can to have a Happy Easter!
Adessa Holden is an ordained minister with the Assemblies of God specializing in Women's Ministry. Together with her brother, Jamie, they manage 4One Ministries and travel the East Coast speaking, holding conferences, and producing Men's and Women's resources that provide practical Biblical teaching for everyday life.
When asked about herself, she'll tell you "I'm a women's minister, a sister, and a daughter. I love to laugh and spend time with people. My favorite things are chocolate, the ocean, sandals and white capris, anything purple, summertime and riding in the car listening to music. It is my absolute honor and privilege to serve Jesus and women through this ministry.