Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Preparing for Easter: Week 2

This Week's Hymns:
Wednesday: Ye Humble Souls that Seek the Lord

Thursday: In the Cross of Christ I Glory
Friday: It Is Finished! Man of Sorrows
Saturday: And Can It Be?
Sunday: Awake, My Heart, with Gladness
Monday: One Day
Tuesday: Hallelujah! Christ Is Risen

Welcome back to Easter heart preparation! Before sharing the daily hymns for this week (thanks to NetHymnal), here are some fun facts about the origins of Easter eggs and Easter bunnies. I am grateful to Ace Collins, whose book Stories Behind the Traditions & Songs of Easter I enjoyed and gleaned this information from.


  • Eggs have always been powerful symbols of new life for many different cultures, all the way back to the ancient Egyptians. For instance, “many early civilizations, including the Persians, Phoenicians, Hindus, and Egyptians, believed the world began as an egg. When that egg was broken, the yellow yolk became the sun, and the remainder made up the earth." Many cultures buried eggs with their dead as a symbol of their belief in the afterlife. (quote from p. 153 of Collins’ book)
  • Many early civilizations participated in egg hunts long before it became a tradition for Easter. Eggs were an important source of food, and people would eat eggs from a variety of animals. When hunters found especially brightly colored eggs, they would bring them back for the children. One day a year, the children would participate in the hunt too, and the one who found the most beautiful egg would win a prize.
  • In places like Europe, brightly colored eggs were not common. So parents would paint eggs and hide them at night for their children to find the next morning. When people converted to Christianity, the egg hunt became a teaching tool. Especially among the Orthodox Christians, eggs were painted red to symbolize Christ's blood, and later drained eggshells became canvases for paintings of the Easter story.
  • Although children certainly enjoyed the bright colors of Easter eggs, they mostly viewed the simple act of eating them as a treat. Since eggs were on the list of forbidden foods for the season of Lent during medieval times, finally being able to eat them on Easter was an exciting event.
  • After Martin Luther broke off from the Catholic Church, Christianity attempted to eliminate any customs stemming from pagan tradition. So Easter egg hunts ceased for several hundred years, at least in Protestant England and America. It finally made a comeback in the mid 1800s, and President Lincoln instituted an egg-rolling contest on the Capitol grounds that is still a tradition today.

after the Easter egg hunt, 1993


  • Rabbits have been considered to have mystical powers for thousands of years; they've often been associated with fertility goddesses. (After all, they do multiply rapidly!)
  • Oestre (possibly related to Easter?) was a rabbit-like goddess who was thought to have driven away winter every year and awakened spring. Once, she is rumored to have granted the request of a bird, who asked to become a rabbit. When Oestre granted her wish the next year, the bird forgot all its bird-like qualities, except how to lay eggs. This story is the first connection of rabbits with eggs. However, the story was mostly forgotten when Europe became predominantly Christian.
  • In the Middle Ages, Easter egg hunts usually took place in fields or meadows where rabbits were everywhere. When children were searching the grass, they often found eggs amongst the frightened rabbits. This later resulted in adults' telling the children that rabbits laid the colorful eggs.
  • In the 1800s, Germany was the first to produce a story about an Easter bunny. Candymakers also made edible bunnies, which gave rise to the notion that the Easter bunny didn't lay eggs, but delivered candy.
  • In recent days, cultural icons like Beatrix Potter's Peter Rabbit and Gene Autry's Peter Cottontail have contributed to the popularity of the Easter bunny. So it's no surprise that a recent poll found that approximately 90% of Americans include the Easter bunny in their holiday celebrations.

Now, without further ado, this week's hymns:

Wednesday, February 20: 

Echoing the angels’ words to those who came to seek the Lord on resurrection morning, this hymn speaks to modern Christians who are also seeking Jesus. 

It is a call for worship of the Christ Who has risen again and saved us, telling us to “bow with rapture down to see the place where Jesus lay” and “raise your eyes and tune your songs.” What a beautiful description of Jesus’ majestic triumph over death!

Thursday, February 21: 

The legend behind this hymn is that the author was sailing past the coast of Macao, China, and he noticed a church that had been destroyed by fire. The cross, however, was still standing intact above the ruins. 

Even if this is nothing more than a nice made-up story, the author did have this hymn’s title engraved on his tombstone, reminding us that through the sanctification of Jesus’ work on the cross, we can know “peace… that knows no measure.” 

Friday, February 22: 

When reading this hymn, one can almost look up and see Jesus suffering on the cross. He was “not in vain for us uplifted,” as through His suffering on the cross, we not only find redemption, but also “strength to bear and conquer” the trials in our lives. 

The words come from a longer hymn entitled "Twas the Day When God's Anointed."

Saturday, February 23: 

This great hymn of the faith speaks incredulously of Jesus’ sacrifice “for me who caused His pain – for me, who Him to death pursued.” Because He “emptied Himself of all but love,” I don’t have to dread His condemnation; I can “approach th’eternal throne” boldly! 

It is a powerful personal testimony of the author’s salvation experience – the author says, “I feel the life His wounds impart; I feel the Savior in my heart.” 

This video of the song gives me goosebumps. What a slice of heaven!

Sunday, February 24: 

What an epic retelling of the resurrection story! It describes Satan’s premature triumph when Jesus lay in the grave, but now “his boast is turned to gloom, for Christ again is free in glorious victory; He Who is strong to save has triumphed o’er the grave.” Because of this, we have peace with God, joy in our hearts, and hope for eternity! 

This hymn makes the triumph over death personal – the author will not be scared in the face of death; he scorns sin and finds the world’s furious war against his soul to be pointless. Instead, he “will cling forever” to Jesus, Who “will leave me never” – “He rends Death’s iron chain, He breaks through sin and pain, He shatters hell’s dark thrall, I follow Him through all.” 

The eighth and final verse takes place in heaven, where Jesus is finally glorified above all.

Monday, February 25: 

These simple words were penned by a preacher who spoke to millions of people at the Chicago World Fair in 1893. After beginning his career as a revivalist and traveling all over the country and the world preaching the good news, he returned home from a tour and realized that his life’s work and all the people whose lives had been changed were because of one day in human history – the day that Jesus rose again from the grave. 

He entrusted the words of his hymn to his pianist, who turned them into a singable melody that touched countless lives. This hymn was sung over and over in the revival meetings and still remains a classic today.

Tuesday, February 26: 

The nephew of the famous poet William Wordsworth seemed to flourish at whatever he did – sports, pastoring an Anglican church, writing Biblical commentaries, and also the composition of what he deemed “reverent” hymns. He wrote, “It is the first duty of a hymn to teach sound doctrine and thence to save souls.” Therefore, he believed that hymns containing personal testimony, such as “Amazing Grace,” were not suitable for worship. 

He based this hymn on Matthew 28:6 – “He is not here: for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.” These words are doctrinally sound and apply to all Christians, moving us to “sing to God a hymn of praise” because “Jesus Christ the King of glory now is risen from the dead”!

See more hymns in this series, and tune in next week for more!

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