What does Easter mean to you?

"It's not about the 'Easter Bunny' or getting candy and presents," says Kendall, 11. "God is the greatest person in the universe. He died for our sins and for us so we could be saved."

Here's the scoop from Hannah, 9: "Easter is really a pagan holiday with all the bunnies and chicks. If you celebrate in the right way about Jesus, it is a good holiday. Easter is named after a pagan god."

Great job, Hannah! Your parents are doing a lot more than hiding Easter eggs.

The word "Easter" is derived from the Anglo-Saxon "Eostre," the name of the goddess of spring, writes scholar D.W. Burdick. The ancient Saxons celebrated the return of spring with an uproarious festival in honor of the goddess of offspring and her symbol, the rabbit.

In many cultures, the egg was the symbol of rebirth. The custom of exchanging eggs in springtime was already in place when second-century Christian missionaries encountered Saxon tribes in northern Germany.

The pagan festival was altered to become a Christian celebration of Jesus' resurrection.

Easter is a time to "celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord, and a day to remember his pain and suffering," says Ama, age unknown.

Not only do we remember the past, but Jesus' resurrection gives us hope that our mortal bodies will be transformed into immortal ones. But that's not all. Christians are exhorted in Scripture to live by the power of Jesus' resurrection, or newness of life by the Spirit of Jesus (Holy Spirit) living in and through them.

If Jesus didn't rise from the dead, then the faith of Christians is "useless" and "pitiful," wrote the Apostle Paul. If there's no resurrection, he told Christians in Corinth, it's party time: "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die" (I Corinthians 15:32).

But if Jesus rose from the dead, every day is resurrection day for Amanda, 11: "He is always with us."

"Easter means God has risen from the dead and was walking around the city and went to talk to the disciples and went back to heaven," says Marce, 11.

Marce, remember the disciples before the resurrection? Scared, scattered and stressed. Three times Peter denied he even knew Jesus.

After seeing the resurrected Christ, all of the disciples dedicated their lives to proclaiming Jesus' victory over death. Most died as martyrs. Why would the disciples risk persecution and death to perpetuate a hoax?

"Easter means the death of Christ for our sins so we could go to heaven because one perfect person had to die for sinners to go to heaven," says Anna, 11.

We like to imagine that God grades on the curve. Have you ever noticed how easy it is to feel good about yourself when compared to murderers, thieves and derelicts?

As long as we're better than most, we assume heaven's gates will open wide for us. Nice theory, but God's entrance exam for heaven is either pass or fail.

Jesus is the only one who passed the test. He lived a perfect life before his Father and people. He offered his perfect life as a sacrifice for imperfect people. Now, the resurrected Jesus offers his righteousness and life to all who trust him as their savior.

Don't substitute sucking candy eggs and chasing rabbits for a risen savior.

For Kayce, 9, the true meaning of Easter is summed up in three words: "Jesus is alive!"

Point to ponder: Jesus is alive and indwelling his people. Scripture to remember: "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me" (Galatians 2:20a). Questions to consider: Have you entered into the realm of resurrection life by believing in Jesus? Do you know the exhilaration of living by Jesus' life instead of your own?

Inspire your children by reading this column with them and visiting the Kids Talk About God website at www.KidsTalkAboutGod.org. Bible quotations are from the New King James Version.

COPYRIGHT 2004 CAREY KINSOLVING