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Easter Celebration

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Grainy and gritty photocomposition on hands clasped in prayer and a cross.

Holidays are a wonderful time to create a sense of sacredness for kids. Christmas has an overwhelming aspect for kids because the excitement of presents can easily eclipse the "real" meaning. This can happen with Easter as well, but not so easily. This is not to say that holidays shouldn't be fun. Fun and celebration work well when interspersed with the "sacred".

The story of Easter and the circumstances of Jesus' death and resurrection is without a doubt one the most poignant and emotionally moving stories in history. Since emotions are the gateway to the mind, one can use this story to stir the emotions of children. The story is rich with lessons of courage, betrayal, injustice, loyalty, faith, love, forgiveness, eternal life, and submission to God's will. The fact that it happens in springtime adds all the more meaning, because spring is laden with metaphors about renewal, which appeal to the deepest part of our spiritual nature.

Drawing from personal experience, I remember when my own son was between the ages of about 5 and 10. He was very interested in weapons — swords in particular. I would read and embellish the Easter story for him every year, clarifying it when the words or concepts were too complicated. Even as a child of 5 my son was enthralled and filled with emotion as Jesus standing before Judas, who had just kissed him, asked the captain of the Roman guards, "Whom do you seek?" and when the Roman guard answered, "Jesus of Nazareth." Jesus replied: "I have told you that I am he. If, therefore, you seek me, let these others go their way. I am ready to go with you."

He marveled to hear how Peter drew his sword and led the other apostles forward to smite the Romans. But before he could, Jesus raised a forbidding hand and spoke sternly, saying: "Peter, put up your sword. They who take the sword shall perish by the sword. Do you not understand that it is the Father's will that I drink this cup? And do you not further know that I could even now command more than twelve legions of angels and their associates, who would deliver me from the hands of these few men?"

Stories such as this can easily lead to a discussion about how many angels it takes to make up twelve legions. Children in general seem to love big numbers. It is astounding to ponder how many angels were available to Jesus at that very moment — an angelic army made up of 71,663,616 individual angels. It can be a provocative and interesting discussion to explore why Jesus chose not to call on even just a few of these angels to save him.

Often, when adults read familiar religious stories to children, their own passion is aroused in such a way that it greatly enhances everyone's enjoyment of the tale. An annual reading of these stories is one easy way to create a meaningful holiday tradition between you and your child.

The sacred traditions of groups, such as churches, often employ powerful music and ceremonial services,especially at Easter time, but if your family doesn't go to church, perhaps there is something you can do at home or with a group of likeminded friends.

The family that I grew up in kept the common Easter traditions. In addition to buying new Easter clothes to show off in Sunday school, we colored and hunted for Easter eggs, found our baskets filled with candy on Easter morning, went to public Easter egg hunts, and ate way too much food with family and friends.Being the oldest of 6 kids and having a difficult home life made these traditions a restful and fun celebration for us all.

In the last several years, members of my faith family (my religious community) have attempted to vary these traditions with the hope of adding more meaning. The day before Easter, three of our "men folk" walk up abig hill, which overlooks the Carquinez Straits. (This has become a kind of pilgrimage for these men.) Each man carries a backpack containing Easter rocks (approximately one to two inches in diameter) that are all painted in the same beautiful color, a color that differs from year to year. Some of the rocks have a meaningful statement painted on them in gold. We commonly use statements like; "You are a child of God" or "The Universe is a friendly place" or "God is the eternal flame within you" or "Jesus came to show us the way",etc. The men scatter the painted rocks over a square block area covered with dill, which makes them difficult to find.

Early the next morning about 25 of us gather with our children, blankets, food, sacred books, and musical instruments to trudge up the long hill together. It is a challenging walk and upon reaching the summit, we lay out our blankets and settle in with a breathtaking view of the Straits. We then read the story of Jesus' resurrection from both The Urantia Book and the Bible, sing songs, play instruments and have a remembrance (communion) of Jesus with bread and juice. Young and old alike have a wonderful time.

Then begins the Easter Rock hunt, when the children and teens search for the beautifully colored rocks. The older children invariably help the younger ones find the colored treasures. They collect the rocks in bags,which can get quite heavy, and when most have been found, we all come back to the blankets to count them.The "prize rocks" are the ones with sayings on them, and who ever find these rocks gets to read them aloud to the group. Prizes are awarded for the fewest found and the most found, the biggest rock and the littlest. And because we almost never find all the rocks in a given year, special recognition goes to those who find rocks that were hidden in previous years.

After we go back down the hill we celebrate with a potluck brunch together. We all look forward to this  meaningful ritual in my community because it is spiritual, fluid, fun, and because it fulfills some basic human needs for body, mind, and spirit.

Each family or community develops its own meaningful holiday traditions. We would love to hear what yours are. If you don't have a family or group to celebrate with, take comfort in the knowledge that the Spirit ofJesus, as well your guardian angels are there to celebrate with your soul, and help you to be inspired and uplifted.


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