Easter is only a few weeks away now, but if you look for cultural clues as to its arrival, the first hot cross buns and easter eggs started filling the shelves of the supermarkets in late January.
It can be easy to get upset at the commercialisation of Easter, even if the extent of that commercialisation hasn’t reached as far as it has with Christmas (and we should be thankful for small mercies with that).
Easter is popular with kids, because it involves chocolate eggs and hot cross buns (which also seem to be largely made of chocolate now). It’s kept in our minds every time we visit the shops with displays and extra end-caps displaying some sort of merchandise we are encouraged to buy. It is also (in almost every year) held in the school holidays, and comes with its very own 4 day long weekend. So it’s also popular with adults (who, to be honest, also like all of these things, even if we resent having to pay money for things and think chocolate hot cross buns is actually a step too far).
Which is where the challenge lies for Christians: How do we make sure that we keep our kids’ (and our own) focus on the death and resurrection of Jesus, the forgiveness of sins, the beginning of the fulfilment of the gift of eternal life, and salvation from just judgement?
The answer lies in our own actions and behaviours of putting Jesus first. In talking about Easter in terms of the forgiveness of sins, of Jesus dying in my place, in our gratitude and devotion to Jesus because of who he is and what he has done for us.
If we leave that until Easter every year, then we are actually ensuring that our kids don’t have anything to focus on other than chocolate eggs, bunnies (or the Australia substitute of Bilbies (surely an echidna would have made more sense with the egg part), hot cross buns, and easter hat parades at schools (side note: do schools still do this? I remember it just once with my kids in primary school, but maybe I just didn’t pay attention enough, but it was every year when I was a kid). All of this stuff now goes on for 3 or more months. If the only time you mention or explain what Jesus has done for you, out loud, at home, to and in front of the kids (for yourself as well as for the kids) is at Easter, then you have no hope of getting the kids to focus on that for more than just the long weekend – if that much!
Which is a good lesson to pay attention to: No matter what we ban, or avoid, or boycott, unless we have a message of hope and joy – the forgiveness of sins through Jesus’ death in our place on the cross – which is proclaimed, praised, spoken about and lived out throughout the year, we are never going to be able to compete.
Easter is a yearly reminder of the death of Jesus and his resurrection to new life, but if we think a yearly reminder is sufficient for anything of this magnitude, then we don’t understand how much difference it makes, and we are never going to be able to get it across to our kids adequately.
The issue at Easter is not actually about whether or not to have chocolate eggs and hot cross buns. It’s about whether Jesus’ death and resurrection make a tangible impact in our homes throughout the year.
If you need to make changes, its never too late to start.