Easter - The Essence of the Gospel

Celebrate Easter Intentionally 

Easter is the Essence of the Gospel

SUNRISE SERVICE on Coconut Island

When I was a little girl growing up in Hawaii, our church would celebrate Easter in a memorable way. Our family would awake long before sunrise in anticipation of the day’s activities. My mom collected candy and some non-food treats for our baskets. These were placed right near our bed so we would see them promptly as we awoke. She combined some sweets with some thoughtful spiritual items. Once we finished looking at our personal baskets, we would quickly pack food and supplies into our station wagon and head for Coconut Island.

Our church family would meet every Easter at an island called Coconut Island for baptism, breakfast and service. Coconut Island is a man made island about the size of a football field. This island, referred to by the locals at Moku Ola, is just offshore from Liliuokalani Park and Banyan Tree Drive. Connected by a footbridge to the main island, it includes a grassy space, picnic tables, restrooms, some sandy beach space and a pier for jumping.

Island of Life

Appropriate to our Easter day gathering this island’s name means the “island of life”.  In ancient Hawaii some believed that swimming around this island three times would secure healing from sickness.  As an avid swimmer myself, I can attest that swimming around an island three times consecutively is sure to make anyone feel better.  Others suggested that warriors or natives might run to this island to redeem themselves if they were in trouble or danger.  With these traditions in mind, Coconut Island is the perfect place for our special Easter service.

Easter is the perfect time for a baptism which symbolizes a new life in Christ.  A day like this felt like a redemption celebration. The young woman in the picture above is actually a dear friend, Willi Hookala, who I befriended and discipled for many years.  So this picture is particularly heartwarming. Thankfully, she still loves the Lord and is pursuing Him.

Long before dawn on Easter morning, about 100 believers gathered on the island with eager hearts.  Many new worshippers of Christ anticipated this day.  My father, initiated by the chilly ocean water, began to baptize these new in the faith just as the colors of the sunrise exploded with a fusion of hues. How memorable!!  Salt water baptism mixed with eyes brimming with tears.  Watching the excitement of those pledging their public confession to Christ matched the grandeur of an Easter dawn.

Soon after the baptism, the food tables were hurriedly assembled.  Some years warm Kailua pig joined the traditional Hawaiian breakfast foods.  For those of you who have not had the privilege of tasting this meat, it is akin to some of the finest smoked pork proudly served in the South.  Kailua pig is cooked underground for days before being served.  Other foods you might expect included white rice, Spam misubi, Portugese sausage, bacon, eggs, malasadas, fresh fruit, POG (papaya, orange and guava juice), pancakes with warm coconut syrup topped off with macadamian nuts along with other tasty Island foods.

Childhood Memories of Easter

My childhood memories of Easter are rich with the goodness of spiritual ripening and feasting with exuberant friends. Our purposeful gathering closed with my father’s musings on the noteworthiness of God’s Son come in a cradle, sacrificed on the cross and gloriously risen from the grave.  All new life celebration initiates from that vacant tomb where angels sang at this divine rebirth.

What are Your Childhood Memories?

Consider what constitutes your childhood memories of Easter?  Was it a new outfit?  Or a matching outfit for you and your siblings?  Was it a large Sunday lunch for family and friends?  Was it a enormous basket filled with sugar to last until Halloween? Was it a egg hunt? 

What will your kids remember when they reminisce about Easter?

Here is a challenge to make Easter a time for spiritual excitement and growth. Think of Easter as truly more exciting for spiritual impact than even Christmas. What better time to emphasize the life of Christ, the story of Good Friday and the new life we personally have because of His resurrection.  Let’s consider some doable ideas for focusing on the Easter Story this Spring.

Emphasizing Christ in Easter!

“Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime.”  Martin Luther penned this as he contemplated the budding of new life appearing around him one spring.  Certainly nature demonstrates the artist of creation. Our creator is showing off each day in the physical world around us.  Spring offers a splendid excuse to peer into the essence of newness in green buds, white pear trees, fresh air, reoccurring color of perennials, and invigorating walks. 

Consider implementing these ideas:

Celebrating a Spiritual Easter

Read an Easter devotional each day between Lent and Easter

“Passion of the Christ” by John Piper (This is the one we are reading.)

“Trail to the Tree” by Ann Voscamp - A free devotional

Cross in your yard

Garden flag about the cross

A cross craft

Reading a devotional book emphasizing Easter

Read the Easter story in the gospels

Investigate the numerous prophesies fulfilled by Christ’s coming (great for older children.)

Attend a Seder

Seder at your table

Decorate your home with meaningful Easter decor like a nail from the   

cross, a tree with ornaments from the Christ story, and crown of thorns

Serve others a meal

Do yard work for a widow or single mom. Leave her a pot of Easter lilies

Resurrection Eggs

An Easter Tree emphasizing the 354 prophesies of Christ coming. Google this. The ideas are vast. 

Ideas for Kid’s Easter Basket

Candy (of course)


Spiritually enriching book

Verse cards

A muffin

New mug

Christian music (cd or iTunes gift card)



Some of the cutest ideas I have seen recently are on 


One of my favorite is the idea of “egging” your friends with younger kids.
This idea could be improvised to bless an older couple as well that would love to celebrate Easter with your sweet little ones. Why not start an "egging" tradition similar to caroling at Christmas. Make your rounds to some of your favorite people. Plan a day to prepare all the goodies you will deliver! You may have more fun than your kids.

Reading a good book can change you. A. W. Tozer commented, "The things you read will fashion you by slowly conditioning your mind." So as we approach Easter, contemplate the essence of the gospel by reading a praiseworthy book.

Books for Reading During Easter

For Children:

The Parable of the Lily

The Donkey Who Carried a King by R.C. Sproul

Benjamin’s Box
The Very First Easter
The Legend of the Easter Egg

The Tale of Three Trees

A Child’s Story of Easter

Numerous Arch books

For Adults

Passion of the Christ by John Piper
The Truth of the Cross by R.C. Sproul

And The Angels Were Silent by Max Lucado

The Case for Easter: A Journalist Investigates the   Evidence for the Resurrection by Lee Strobel

Look around. A plethora of options exist. Send me your favorite book suggestion for Easter reading.

Don't IGNORE the GOSPEL of Easter.

As you anticipate this Easter season, grasp hold of the glorious essence of the gospel.  Contemplate Oswald Chambers thought, “All of heaven is interested in the cross of Christ, hell afraid of it, while men are the only ones to ignore its meaning.”  Don’t ignore this opportunity to emphasis the cross to your family.  Don’t ignore the opportunity to add preeminence to these spiritual truths.  Don’t ignore the opportunity to give prominence to Christ in celebrating the essence of Easter.