Good Friday and Easter—quite arguably the two most significant events in human history—are often little more than a blip on our cultural radar, even for Christians.
And, as youth workers, even when we do think about these holidays, we’re prone to focus more on planning and programs than on what they mean for our own spiritual growth and connection with Christ. What if this year were different?
Following are six practices I’ve implemented at times in my own life to tap into the abundant riches of the season and prepare my heart to celebrate Christ’s death and resurrection. I encourage you to choose one or two to put into practice in your own life, as well. As you deepen your walk with Jesus, the blessings will inevitably overflow to your students.
About 300 years after Christ rose from the grave, Christians started observing the season of Lent as a way to prepare their hearts for Easter. Lent starts with Ash Wednesday, a solemn day of fasting and prayer that occurs 46 days before Resurrection Sunday. Many Protestant churches (and nearly every Catholic church) will have an Ash Wednesday service that typically consists of silence, an opportunity to confess and repent of your sins, and the physical application of ash placed across your forehead as a symbol of repentance. Following Ash Wednesday, observing a prolonged fast or abstinence through the season of Lent can serve as a powerful reminder of the 40 days of prayer and fasting that Jesus spent in the wilderness just before entering public ministry.
The season of Lent concludes on Maundy Thursday (the day before Good Friday), which commemorates Jesus washing the disciples’ feet and instituting communion at the Last Supper. These deeply meaningful traditions have prepared millions of hearts for Easter over the course of nearly 2,000 years—and they can do the same for yours. Even if you missed Ash Wednesday and are jumping in late in the game, a focus on repentance and fasting in the remaining days leading up to Easter will still help you keep your eyes on Christ and all He’s done for us.
Talk about the Egg
You may think the Easter egg is merely a newfangled, secular tradition, but the use of decorated eggs for celebrating Easter dates back to the 13th century. In many traditions, eggs were not permitted to be eaten during Holy Week (the week leading up to Easter Sunday), but chickens continued to lay eggs during that week. This led to the collection of those Holy Week eggs, which were stained red to reflect the blood of Christ and were eaten after the season of Lent. Eggs also served as a great reminder of what Jesus has done, because they’re a symbol of new life. The shell cracks open, and new life emerges—a memorable illustration of what took place on Easter morning, when the tomb broke open and Jesus was alive forevermore!
As you engage in the activity of decorating (and eating!) Easter eggs, talk with your family about and reflect on the deep meaning behind the activity.
Attend a Good Friday Service
If you’re not offering a Good Friday service at your church building, consider attending one elsewhere. This can help not only to prepare your heart for Easter Sunday, but also to foster greater love and appreciation for the universal Church. Perhaps you could find a church that’s providing a Seder supper, or a “Stations of the Cross” walk-through, or some other expression of worship that would help you to consider the magnitude of the cross in a fresh way.
Personally, I’ll never forget attending a Good Friday service in which the electricity randomly went out, and we were all given candles to hold while the pastor spoke about the sky turning dark while Jesus hung on the cross. It was a powerful, unplanned, and unforgettable moment.
Watch The Passion of the Christ
The first time I ever watched Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ was on Good Friday in 2004. It was an exceptionally moving experience for me. For nearly a decade afterward, I watched the film every year on Good Friday. It served as a vivid reminder of what Jesus was willing to go through to save me from my sins, and it always left me with an exceedingly grateful heart.
Plant a Tree
This one may bend toward the bizarre, but in 2006, after my wife and I came home from the mission field and moved into our first house, we went out on Good Friday and bought ourselves a Crimson King maple tree to plant in our front yard. Through the years, as we’ve watched it grow and bloom, and weather storm after storm, it’s reminded us of the King of kings, whose crimson flow has purchased our peace with God.
Invite Someone to Church
It’s no secret that Easter Sunday is one of the biggest days for church attendance across the world. For whatever reason, people tend to be more open to the idea of attending church on Easter. This phenomenon provides the perfect opportunity for you to invite a friend, family member, neighbor, or coworker to come to church with you on Easter Sunday. Statistically, they’ll be more likely to say “yes” on that day than nearly any other day.
Leading up to the church service, pray fervently for their hearts to be open to God. Care for them in practical ways, like offering to pick them up or meet them in the lobby so they don’t have to enter the building alone. Hope like crazy that the pastor presents the Gospel clearly during the service, and if he doesn’t, follow up with your friend by sharing the Gospel with them personally afterward. If, by the grace of God, your friend, family member, neighbor, or coworker hears the clear Gospel and puts their faith in Jesus Christ alone for salvation, it will be the best Easter Sunday of their lives—and likely yours as well.
Share How You Prepare!
What practices have you found helpful in readying your heart to celebrate Easter? Share your insights with the Gospel Advancing leader community on our Facebook page to bless others as well!