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Easter: 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 as 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.

As you celebrate this Easter, let me share this heartwarming story of Easter on Coconut Island. Then let’s look at how you can celebrate a spiritual Easter along with ideas for Easter baskets, a fun tradition of “egging”, and a few book suggestions.

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. (Please excuse the poor quality of these photos. However, to add authenticity to this story, I wanted to share some real pictures. These are actual pictures taken of Easter Sunrise service baptisms in the mid 1980’s.)

Easter is the perfect time for a baptism which symbolizes a new life in Christ.  II Corinthians 5:17 tells us “… if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” A day like this felt like a redemption celebration. The young woman in the first and second picture above is actually a dear friend, Willi Hookala Yoshimura, 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 celebrations initiated from that vacant tomb where angels sang at this divine rebirth. The story of Easter is one that ends with resurrection to life and victory permanently over death.

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 an enormous basket filled with sugar to last until Halloween? Was it an egg hunt?

What will you or 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. In I Peter 1: 3 we read, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” Baptism is an act of public confession to the beautiful gospel Christ’s resurrection offers us. Christ is alive. As a believer comes out of the water as he or she is baptized, there is an overwhelming sense of hope and new life.

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. Whether you live alone, with a spouse or a house full of kids, Easter is the perfect time to marinate on the essence of the gospel of God’s good news. Being a Christ follower creates true excitement in the Biblical story of Easter. If you are a parent, Easter is truly an exciting time to lean into spiritual formation in your home. Select songs that tell the story of Easter. 

Whether alone or with children, 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 or resurrection

A cross craft

Reading a devotional book emphasizing Easter

Read the Easter story in the gospels. Read it in different versions. Take turns letting different family members read the Easter story.

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

Attend a Seder.

Host a 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

Create the 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 such as The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd Jones

Verse cards

New mug with a verse or spiritual inspiration

Christian music 



One of the cutest ideas I have practiced in this season is “egging.” This is simple excuse to bless a few of your favorite people or someone you determine needs a blessing. This is similar to caroling or delivering baked goods at Christmas.

What is “egging?” It can be any kindness you might imagine. Flowers, baked good, a favorite book, a basket of eggs filled with money or surprises, or a gift card that meets a need or just loves on someone are excellent choices.

One of my favorite recipients 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:

Gospel: Big Theology for Little Hearts  by Devon Provencher

Found: Psalm 23 by Sally Lloyd Jones

The Parable of the Lily by Liz Curtis Higgs

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

Benjamin’s Box by Melody Carlson and Jack Stockman

The Very First Easter (part of The Beginner’s Bible)

The Legend of the Easter Egg by Lori Walburg and James Bernardin

The Tale of Three Trees by Angela Elwell Hunt

Numerous Arch books

For Adults:

Passion of the Christ by Martin Luther

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

Journey to the Cross by John Paul Tripp

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.

Listen to a conversation on this content at Embrace Your Everyday podcast.

More about FAITH:

Who’s in Charge of Your Children’s Spiritual Training?


Who am I? What is My True Identity?

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