Easter brings back many rich memories of special activities that my daughters and I have shared over the years. But although the egg hunts and hiding baskets were fun, it is the memories of participating in the Passion Play at our church that has left such a deep imprint on not only my life, but also the life of my oldest daughter. It was the opportunity to experience the Easter story together which has changed our lives.

It was seven years ago on a cold Sunday in January. My oldest daughter was nine at the time. We began hearing talk about the upcoming Passion Play.

"What's that, Mommy?" 

"Oh it's a play where they act out the events leading up to Jesus' crucifixion and then Resurrection," I explained."Can we do that? Can I be in the play? Will there be angels?"

I remember smiling that day at her enthusiasm and telling her that we would look into it. Although I knew that participating in this event would be meaningful, I had no idea how great an experience it would be.

Yes, there were many reasons which made it difficult for us to participate. We lived a long way from the church. The rehearsals were many. But still, the more I thought and prayed about it, the more I sensed that it was something we needed to do as a family.

Much to my daughter's dismay, they decided that she would be one of the spectators. Her desire to be an angel would have to wait until she was older. I sang in the choir and loved singing. Participating in the practices became part of our weekly routine that year. Each Wednesday night we stopped at McDonalds on our way home, ordered our nuggets and fries and then rode the rest of the way singing the songs from the Passion Play.

Those times of preparation drew the members of the church together as we approached the big day.  At long last the dress rehearsal came. I watched my daughter's big brown eyes grow serious when she looked at the older girls dressed in their beautiful angel robes. But the moment passed and she took her place with the other members of the crowd who celebrated Jesus on Palm Sunday with glad hosannas.

It was as if we were drawn into the heart of the Easter Story through those rehearsals.

I could feel the highs of exultation as they waved their palms. But very quickly, the tone changed and with heavy heart we watched as Jesus carried the cross. Darker painful moments came as He hung on the cross.  I could not hold back my tears as I watched my Lord crucified. My daughter too experienced the pain of seeing it enacted before her eyes.

"It hurts to watch Jesus die," she spoke quietly one night as we drove home together.

"Yes, it does, honey. You really can feel it, can't you?"

"It was one thing when we read it in the Bible, but to be part of the Passion Play and to see it, well... it's more real."

"I know. I feel it too."

I whispered a word of thanks that we were led to experience this together. I knew we would never see Easter the same.

And we haven't.

The years have come and gone. We are no longer able to participate in a Passion Play. But the truth which came alive for us then still lives. The Resurrection can only be deeply experienced by going through the crucifixion. 

As I ponder those memories this morning, the question came to me. Did it make a difference that my daughter was a part of the crowd instead of being an angel?

"What do you think now that it's years later?" I asked.

"Oh I'm sure glad that I was part of the crowd. That's where I needed to be. The angels couldn't experience it the same way."

How true. 

Help me Lord to give myself the opportunity of being there again this Easter.

May the wonder of His great Love overwhelm you and your family at the deepest level of your being.

March 29, 2010

Sharon Beth Brani lives in Culpeper, VA..Her greatest treasures are her Lord and her two adopted daughters. She is a licensed professional counselor and a specialized adoption coach working with adoptive families. She helps the adoptive parent and their children to maximize the adoption process and to enjoy a lifetime of committed love and growth in a healthful family situation. Her website is www.heartprintsadoption.com. She can be reached at sharon@heartprintsadoption.com.