The Problem (Okay, Problems) With Easter
When we created Advent Blocks a few years ago, we were aiming to make a resource that rode the wave of Christmas anticipation. As any parent knows, the challenge at Christmastime isn’t so much building anticipation—that’s everywhere. It’s directing anticipation … back to the Bethlehem manger. With Advent Blocks, we’ve found that families can enjoy all of the excitement of the Christmas season and make December about Jesus.
Once that first Christmas passed, it was only natural that we started dreaming about Easter. What could we put in people’s homes to help them lean into the meaning of Easter? And that’s when we realized Easter had two major problems.
The first problem is seasonal. Easter doesn’t really get its own time to shine. Technically, yes, there is a whole 40-day period on the liturgical calendar leading up to Easter. It’s called Lent. Beginning on Ash Wednesday, the forty days prior to Easter are a time to fast, reflect on our mortality, and follow the story of Jesus as he journeys to Jerusalem. Many churches, especially more traditional ones, keep Lent front and center.
But even for folks who are familiar with Lent, it generally acts as a moment to give their New Year’s resolutions a second shot. Time to kick the caffeine habit, swear off sweets, or—for real this time—get rid of TikTok.
All of that is fine. But it doesn’t make for a season of anticipation. Nor does it do much to involve our kids, who (especially if they’re little) won’t be joining us as we skip the Starbucks line for a month.
It comes down to this: Easter doesn’t dominate the spring the way Christmas dominates the winter. Springtime is about spring break and March Madness and looking forward to the summer. In the spring, Easter isn’t a grand finish line, like Christmas is. Easter … well, Easter just kind of happens somewhere along the way.
For us parents, we don’t even see Easter coming until it’s right on top of us. If you’re anything like us, at some point in the middle of March you find yourself asking, “Wait … when exactly is Easter this year?”
But it gets worse.
Easter Is About, Well, Everything
Problem 1 is seasonal: Easter is a tough moment to capture because spring isn’t about Easter the way winter is about Christmas. But Problem 2 is theological: How in the world can we capture everything the church celebrates at Easter?
Christmas, after all, is (from a theological standpoint) relatively straightforward: It’s the story of God coming to earth to stay. That one theme is tremendously rich and complex, but it really is one theme. We’re talking about God’s presence. That’s why, when we made Advent Blocks, we tried to capture that theme—not only with the text of the stories, but with the actual design. Take a look at the layout of the blocks: It’s linear, with God starting out on the left and, day by day, getting closer to us on the right. Visually, you get it: God is coming to earth to stay.
Easter, on the other hand, feels like it’s about, well, everything. Like a diamond reflecting light into a dozen brilliant rainbows, the stories of Jesus’ death and resurrection are so multifaceted that it’s impossible to capture all of the beauty. During the week leading up to Jesus’ death and resurrection, we see him revealing himself as the true lord of the temple, a miraculous prophet, a sacrificial lamb, and a resurrecting king.
How can you bottle the beauty of Easter?
Who Was Jesus, Anyway?
In the end, the problems of Easter suggested the way forward: Seasonally, we needed something tangible to remind us that Easter was coming. Theologically, we needed a resource that could grapple with everything happening during Holy Week.
At first, we tried tinkering with something that spanned the 40 days of Lent. But it was too sprawling, too difficult to maintain momentum. We needed a more targeted time of reflection—especially since (ahem) we had never done something in our homes for Easter. Rather than go from 0 to 40, we decided to go from 0 to 8: we zoomed in on the last week of Jesus’ life. Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday. Holy Week.
The result was Easter Blocks. Like Advent Blocks, it’s tangible, beautiful, playful, and biblically rich. But unlike Advent Blocks, Easter Blocks shows every side of the “Easter diamond,” pondering not one, but many of the identities Jesus was revealing about himself. It’s meant to prompt the same kinds of questions people had about Jesus just before his death: What kind of king is this?
You see, in the week leading up to his death, everyone surrounding Jesus had assumptions about what he was about to do. Some thought he was propping himself up as a conquering king. Some thought he was entering Jerusalem as a new prophet. Whether people loved him or hated him, everyone around Jesus saw a glimpse of what Jesus was up to. But at the time, no one could quite see the whole picture.
What we’ve done with Easter Blocks is put us into the shoes of those first century followers, grappling with the same questions they would have had. So every day, the refrain (you know there’s got to be a refrain!) raises a question about Jesus’ identity. Is Jesus a servant? A prophet? A lamb? A king? You can probably guess where all of these questions are leading: The miracle of Easter is that Jesus fulfilled all of these roles—and more! But we needed time to slow down long enough to savor the wonder of each title. We needed to be stunned, like Jesus’ first disciples were stunned, that one man could really be all of this.
Christmas Echoes in the Easter Story
The more I reflect on the beauty of Easter, the more I’m struck by—and a bit amused by—the echoes I hear of Christmas. My kids love hearing about Jesus turning over tables in the temple, with animals scattering and bellowing. They think it’s wild that a woman would interrupt a dinner to dump a bunch of perfume on Jesus’ head. They laugh out loud at the idea of Jesus having a chat with a fig tree.
But what they are only beginning to see—and what I just cannot get over—is that in all of these surprising stories, we’re not watching some ordinary man. We’re not even watching a uniquely talented or holy man. We’re seeing God in action. What began in a Bethlehem stable leads, inevitably, to a hill on the outskirts of Jerusalem. In Holy Week, we are invited to see what happens when “God comes to earth to stay.”
At Christmas, we celebrate the miracle that God would leave heaven to enter into the mess of our lives. But at Easter, we see God going one step further. He doesn’t just enter our life. He enters our death—and then conquers it forever.