No Easter morning would be complete without eight little words. These words uniquely signal a cherished tradition in our home. In the predawn darkness, I walk into my daughter's room, bend over and whisper in her ear, "Happy Easter, Ally. It's time to get up!"
Ever since my middle daughter, Allison, was 7 years old, she has accompanied me to the sunrise service in our town. Of my three daughters, she is most willing to brave the cold and dark.
This annual sunrise celebration is more than bonding time; it's the perpetuation of a tradition I enjoyed with my dad. When I was 7, my pastor-father invited me to join him at the local ecumenical Easter sunrise service. That year, they let me help distribute bulletins as worshipers arrived.
I remember his warm hand jostling my shoulder as he woke me. I remember the woman who sang "The Holy City" — she had only one arm. Mostly, though, I remember how easy it was to visualize the first disciples journeying to the tomb in the darkness only to find it empty. The experience touched me spiritually, and I felt a special closeness to my dad.
As my attendance at sunrise services continued through the years, Allison is the only one of my girls that has experienced the same joy I felt as a kid. Even so, I've found other traditions to enjoy with Kristin and Lauren.
The Easter traditions we enjoy as a family help embrace the reality of Christ's resurrection. Perhaps your family can enjoy them as well.
- Before Easter, we watch a video that illustrates the suffering and death of our Savior. Now that The Passion of the Christ is available and my kids are older, we will watch that this year. We've also enjoyed Jesus of Nazareth and the animated version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
- The night before Palm Sunday weekend, we decorate the mantle above our fireplace to provide a visual focus of the Easter story. It includes an olive wood donkey, palm branches, a handmade wooden cross and a large rock with a hollowed-out center that resembles a tomb.
- We attend either a Maundy Thursday or Good Friday service. Although our girls did not initially enjoy going to church in the middle of the week, now they ask to go. They value reliving the passion of Christ and appreciate the meaning of His resurrection.
- We have a museum in our community that features a Holy Week art exhibit as well as a life-size mural of the crucifixion, so we visit it on Good Friday afternoon. After quietly pondering what Jesus did for us on the Cross, we always eat out at T.G.I.Friday's.
- On Easter weekend we deliver homemade cards to our neighbors. Our token of friendship and faith stands out because others rarely send Easter cards.
- My wife has a traditional joy that is hers alone. On Easter, she doesn't have to cook. Following the service, we go to our favorite family-owned breakfast place that makes incredible baked German pancakes.
- After Allison and I return from our Easter sunrise service, I put Handel's Messiah on the CD player. As we dress for church and open our Easter baskets, the timeless strains of "Comfort Ye," "All We Like Sheep" and the "Hallelujah Chorus" fill our home with reminders of our Savior.