Easter was so much more relaxing this year than last year. There was no mad dash for Easter candy and gifts, no frenetic stuffing of Easter eggs in the bathroom on Easter morning. Did I suddenly become organized and do all of my preparations ahead of time??
As Bill would say... "Seriously!" No, I didn't even think of Easter baskets until we saw my friend Gentle at church on Saturday night. After she'd admired Allyson's Easter dress, she asked, "Are you ready for the Easter Bunny?"
Bill and I exchanged glances. No, we hadn't done anything at all.
On the way home from church, we concocted a plan. We tossed the big trip to Walmart back and forth: "I'll go"... "No, I'll go." Finally, I said, "Okay, I guess you can go. You're better at that kind of thing anyway. Besides, as I recall, I was the one to do the Easter shopping last year."
"No, I don't think so," Bill countered.
"No, I know I did. I have the blog entry to prove it."
"Humph," he replied. But after an incredibly delicious dinner of chicken pot pie, he cheerfully set off for Walmart while I tucked Allyson in. He came back in much less time than it would have taken me, carrying a Barbie tablet with a Magic Revealer marker for Allyson and a Nerf gun for Ethan. He stuffed all the eggs while I sat idly next to him on the couch, enthralled by a Discovery Channel documentary on the chemistry and genetics of sexual attraction--fascinating! Just before midnight, Bill hid ten "A" eggs and ten "E" eggs.
I had almost as much fun as Allyson in the morning, trying to spot all the cleverly hidden eggs. Allyson's favorite was one of Ethan's eggs, which was nestled in the dining room chandelier. (Ethan didn't get to hunt for eggs until he returned from his dad's house in the evening, at which point we had to threaten Allyson with a time-out because she kept excitedly pointing out all of his eggs.)
Bill apparently did very well with his shopping because Allyson kept exclaiming, "The Easter bunny gave me all chocolate! All my eggs have chocolate in them! And how did the Easter bunny know that I love Barbie?"
"Oh, I'm pretty sure the Easter bunny knows all about you," I said slyly.
Yep, this Easter was sooo much less stressful--for me, at least!
Our First Passover Meal
Okay, so I did make one contribution to this year's celebration. We actually started our Easter celebration on Good Friday, when I put on a little Passover meal (Seder) for our family. I wasn't trying to become Jewish, nor was I trying to transform a Jewish ceremony into a Christian one. Instead, I wanted to celebrate the heritage of our faith and explore the connection between the Passover story and the crucifixion.
I did my best to include all the major elements: Matzoh bread, bitter herbs (parsley sprigs), horseradish, vinegar (substituted for the traditional saltwater), charoset (apples, nuts, cinnamon, honey, and grape juice), and "wine" (sparkling grape juice, Allyson's favorite drink in the world). Everything but the juice and bread was arranged on a deviled egg plate, not very authentic, I'm afraid.
Before we began, Ethan and Allyson hunted for some slices of bread hidden in the kitchen. They put it in a basket and carried it into another room. I explained that the bread contains yeast, also called leaven, and part of the Passover tradition is removing all leaven from the house. Leaven symbolizes sin, and removing the leaven is an act of obedience to God's commands.
I started by lighting two candles and saying a little prayer. We all washed our hands in a decorative salad bowl and dried them on a tea towel; I explained that this represents purifying our hearts. Then I had Ethan and Allyson ask the traditional question, "Why is this night different from all other nights?"
I replied that this was the night we were celebrating God's deliverance--both the deliverance of his people from Egypt over 3000 years ago, and his deliverance of all of us from sin.
I'd had high hopes for this meal--the first time we'd ever done something like this--but Ethan quickly dashed them. "When are we gonna eat?" he demanded. Bill shushed him, but the aroma of the freshly roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, and gravy proved too much of a distraction for him. Soon Allyson joined in. "Is it time to eat yet?"
I sighed and set aside the thick sheaf of papers that I'd printed off the Internet. "I guess we can eat dinner first and then go on with the rest of the ceremony later," I suggested.
While we ate, I briefly recounted the story of the Hebrews' enslavement. Despite his studied lack of interest, Ethan couldn't resist interjecting a few details--especially about how God saved Moses from the Pharaoh's edict of death for all male Hebrew babies. Even Allyson recognized that story because they learned about it in Sunday school a few weeks ago.
We talked about how the Hebrew slaves toiled endlessly, and how they continued to thrive despite all the harsh treatment they endured. We recalled how Moses was raised by the Pharaoh's daughter and how he eventually led his people to freedom after God sent ten plagues against their oppressors.
I concluded by describing the final plague that caused the Pharaoh to relent--the death angel came to take all the Egyptian firstborn males, but he passed over all the Hebrew houses, which had the blood of a sacrificial lamb smeared on their doorposts.
"But what does all this have to do with Easter?" Ethan wondered.
"Oh, it has everything to do with Easter," I answered. "I'm getting to that."
We went on to sip our first glass of "wine" and then dipped the parsley in the vinegar--symbolizing the bitter tears the Hebrews shed during their slavery. I broke half of the middle piece of Matzoh and hid it away in a napkin--an act that reminds Christians of the death and burial of Christ. Each of us broke off a little piece from the remaining bread, and we put a little horseradish on it, and a little of the apple mixture. This reminds us that our lives are always a mixture of the bitter and the sweet. (Allyson loved the Matzoh bread, by the way, and kept eating it long after we'd finished dinner.)
Next came the kids' favorite part. I explained that a full glass of wine represents joy, but our joy cannot be complete as long as others in the world are suffering. In order to mourn the suffering that brought the Jews their freedom, we dipped our fingers in the juice and let one drop fall on our plates for each of the ten plagues: blood, frogs, gnats, flies, diseased cattle, boils, hail, locusts, darkness, death of the firstborn. We spilled one last drop for the current suffering in the world due to wars, disasters, famines, etc.
Then came the part I'd been waiting for. I brought out the hidden bread, the afikomen, and broke it into pieces. As I handed out the pieces, I addressed each family member by name and said, "Take, eat. This is Jesus' body, broken for you." Then we held up our glasses, and I said, "Drink. This is Jesus' blood, poured out for your salvation." (Luke 22:19-20)
Afterward, we talked about the Last Supper, at which Jesus and his disciples shared the Passover meal. At last, I answered Ethan's question by explaining that the blood of the Passover lamb foreshadowed the blood of Jesus, which would cover our sins with God's righteousness so that we would not have to suffer the consequence of sin (death--eternal separation from God).
I felt the same thrill that I always feel when I contemplate the disciples' revelation at that moment. Can you imagine encountering this entirely new level of meaning in the Passover meal they'd been observing since childhood? What must it have felt like to realize that they were breaking bread with THE MESSIAH?? Hallelujah! Oh, how I love Easter!
All in all, I think it was a positive experience, though I don't know if we'll do it again. I wasn't sure how the kids felt about it, or whether they learned anything. I guess it made some sort of impression, though, because Allyson has asked several times, "When are we gonna do that Easter dinner again?"
"Next year in Jerusalem," I guess.