The art of remembrance in our family traditions of Easter

“Jesus stole my marshmallow!”

The indignant eyes of my almost three-year-old glared at me in disbelief as we examined his first resurrection bun—the classic crescent-wrapped marshmallow that disappears after baking and symbolizes an “empty tomb.” 

Previous visions of theological discussions to help my child understand substitutionary atonement were instead dashed and replaced with the ideology that our Savior succumbs to the heinous crime of thievery of beloved sugary treats. 

Take care to remember

Have your attempts at intentional family activities ever produced less than ideal reactions? 

If so, I can understand the hesitancy to attempt family traditions for fear that it may not be received as intended, whether you’re dealing with two-year-old toddlers or teenagers. 

In addition to that resistance, Easter tends to sneak up on us, doesn’t it? 

We often spend weeks preparing for the Advent of Christmas. But for most Christians, unless we observe Lent in some way (this is still a goal of mine!), Easter is here before we know it, and the day can come and go without as much consideration as we’d like. 

Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (v. 15:17 ESV). The resurrection means everything to the Christian!

So why do we not take more time to celebrate in a purposeful manner? 

The answer is not hard to find if we look in Scripture. Throughout history, we are described as a forgetful people: 

  • • “They forgot God, their Savior, who had done great things in Egypt” (Psalm 106:21). 
  • • “They forgot his works and the wonders that he had shown them” (Psalm 78:11). 
  • • “Do you not perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered?” (Matthew 16:9). 
  • • “For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins” (2 Peter 1:9). 

Similarly, we see the command in Scripture to take care to remember. The Lord repeatedly gave the command in Deuteronomy to “only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children” (Deuteronomy 4:9 ESV). 

The writers of Psalms likewise seem to desire a resolve to remember: 

  • • “I will cause your name to be remembered in all generations; therefore nations will praise you forever and ever” (Psalm 45:17). 
  • • “I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old” (Psalm 77:11). 
  • • “They remembered that God was their rock, the Most High God their redeemer” (Psalm 78:35). 
  • • And even Paul commands us to “remember that you were at that time separated from Christ. . . . but now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:11, 13). 

The value of repetition in tradition

So, how can we be aware of our tendency to forgetfulness and combat it by intentionally cultivating remembrance? 

I believe the main way is through our traditions. 

One of my favorite sources of authority on this topic is Noel Piper’s Treasuring God in Our Traditions. She discusses the value of observing both everyday traditions as well as especiallytraditions. Both are vitally important, and for this purpose of this article, we’re focusing on the especially tradition of Easter. 

But let me at least mention that without the everyday tradition of time in God’s word, we will most certainly lean more toward forgetfulness than remembrance. 

Here are some of Piper’s insights into the value of repetition in tradition: “Things like [traditions] don’t just happen. They come first from our own hearts that are tuned in to God. Then they happen because we plan to include our children in the God-air we breathe. Without planning, we’ll practice our Bible memory just once or twice and then no more. We’ll do lots of good things, but only a couple of times. One of the great strengths of good traditions in our lives is the repetition—not something done once, then something else, then another thing altogether, but good things done regularly, dependably, until they become habits.”

Intentional planning of traditions

Regardless of how well you’d grade yourself in this area, let me encourage you to consider traditions you can observe this year. 

Maybe you need to revive some you previously ceased due to weariness. Maybe you need to begin new traditions that you can continue observing for years to come. What can you begin intentionally with your family that could continue as an everyday tradition past the especiallytradition of Easter day? 

It doesn’t need to be flashy or expensive. Strive for intentionality, simplicity, and purpose. And just get started cultivating an atmosphere of remembrance in your hearts and homes. 

What better time than now? Let the especially be a catalyst for your everyday. Piper also writes that “our children come to believe, probably unconsciously, that whatever is repeated regularly has significance. It was God’s design that learning happens by frequent and regular repetition. In order to do what Deuteronomy 11:19 says, you have to be planning—planning what to say and where, how, and when to say it. We must plan to reflect God and teach about Christ in the repeated events of our lives.”

Slow down and remember God’s goodness

Remember: as we begin and continue cultivating this art of remembrance through our traditions—it can be messy. 

It may not always be received with a reverent, sober-minded atmosphere, especially if you, like me, have littles at home. 

But the reason we are doing this is not about how perfectly we can capture a photo of it for Instagram. The reason we are doing this is that we need it as much as our children do. We need to slow down, break our regular patterns, and remember who God is—his faithfulness through what he has done, is doing, and what he promises still to do. 

So when the traditions are messy, filled with giggles or resistance, keep moving forward and striving for the ultimate purpose of the tradition—to treasure Christ more.

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