Don’t forget to teach children real story of Easter this year

Published 9:44 am Friday, April 18, 2014

By the Rev. Nancy Overgaard

Freeborn County Ministerial Association

Recently, I shopped at three local stores to find meaningful Easter gifts for dinner guests, ages 9, 6, 3 and a baby. I was astonished by what I found, or more so, by what I did not find. What I found were huge sections devoted to Easter filled with pastel-colored bunnies, chicks, baskets, coloring books, candy and Easter egg kits.

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What I did not find was any mention whatsoever of Jesus Christ, or of his death and resurrection, the focus of Easter when I was a child. Neither a coloring book, nor a story book, not even a snuggly lamb so much as hinted at what was once considered “The Greatest Story Ever Told.”

Combing through coloring books in the general section of one store, I found a few with Bible pictures.

Sadly, one was nestled among fairy tale books and labeled “Tales from the Bible” as if it was merely fiction. More sadly still, even the Bible story coloring books left out the most important story of all. No mention was made of Jesus’ death on the cross and only a hint at his resurrection.

What has happened to us that in 60 short years the greatest story ever told has become a story unworthy of being told at all?

It is not just in retail stores that the Christian message is vanishing from our culture. Recently, I was stunned to discover the hospital chapel had been sheet-rocked and painted over as though it never existed. In its place is a conference room accessible by another door. In the retirement community where I once worked, the chapel was converted to an apartment.

The distinct impression left is that in our increasingly secular culture, a chapel and the faith it represents are no longer considered of value, nor is passing on the Christian faith to younger generations.

How differently the Christian faith was viewed by the Apostle Peter! In his first letter, Peter spoke of faith in Christ as of greater worth, not only than a basket of plastic eggs, but gold, the most precious of metals. Even gold perishes, Peter wrote. Faith in Christ is imperishable and infinitely more valuable (1:7).

With faith in Christ comes hope in the midst of the most painful trials of life (1 Peter 1:6). Note the hope expressed by the family of the grandfather and teenage grandson shot and killed at a Jewish Community Center this week. As it turns out, they were Christian and family members spoke openly about the great consolation their faith in Christ and hope of eternal life is to them in this tragic situation.

Life is as fleeting as wild flowers, Peter wrote, citing the prophet Isaiah, here one moment and gone the next (1:24). With faith in Christ comes life everlasting, the incredibly costly gift Jesus paid for, not with perishable things as silver or gold, Peter wrote, but with his own precious blood (1:19).

“In his great mercy, (God) has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade — kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time,” (1:3-5, NIV). With faith in Christ comes inexpressible and glorious joy (1:8).

To those who believe, Peter wrote, Christ is precious (2:7) as he is to God (2:4). Others may value him not at all. Yet, Peter wrote, speaking of Jesus while citing the Psalmist, “The stone which the builders rejected as worthless turned out to be the most important of all,” (2:7, Today’s English Version).

How does a person come to believe? The Apostle Paul wrote faith and salvation come by hearing the story of Christ’s death and resurrection and believing (Romans 10:17). “How can they believe if they have not heard the message?” he asks. “And how can they hear if the message is not proclaimed?” (10:14, Today’s English Version). As Christians, we are called to share the message with others, especially the young, (Psalm 78:6-7, I Peter 2:9).

Parents and grandparents, you may have to hunt hard to find presents for your children and grandchildren that tell the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection in ways they can understand. It will be worth it for you and for them. Despite appearances in our increasingly secular culture, there is still no greater story ever told, no greater gift ever given.