I love Michele Guinness’s books http://www.micheleguinness.co.uk/ and they’ve had a profound effect on my family life. I love her emphasis on the Jewish way of interweaving the spiritual with the ordinary and making the home the base for a faith filled life rather than the church building. Following those principles, I’ve tried to make spiritual family traditions part of our way of life, from doing our own ‘church at home’ when we couldn’t make it to a service to our annual family Passover.
Now, I appreciate that I don’t have any Jewish heritage (although my husband still questions that name Rubins in my family tree!) so it takes a bit of explanation why my family’s main event at Easter is a Passover meal or Haggadah. But for us, it’s a way of celebrating our spiritual ancestry and it really has become as much part of our family tradition as everyone opening presents on our double bed on Christmas morning. In fact, I knew it had become that when my elder son announced that even when he has a home of his own, the two things he will always come back for are Christmas and Passover.
It has become a truly special evening for our family, partly from the length of time we’ve been doing it and the memories attached. I won’t forget the one where we had to ‘recline on cushions’ on the sofas out of necessity when Passover fell two days after our younger son broke his leg. Then there’s the poignancy and depth brought the year our elder son recently returned from a school R.E. trip to Warsaw, so our soundtrack was the band’s CD from the Jewish restaurant he ate in and he told us of his experience of visiting Auschwitz.
The other reason Passover is so special to us is because it’s an evening where the words, the food, and the actions bring the Exodus story alive, gives experiential insight into the Last Supper, and roots both in our own lives. The boys hunt for the hidden yeast to symbolise the need to root out hidden sin. We eat haroseth, bitter herbs and burnt eggs dipped in saltwater to remind us of the tears and bitterness of slavery in the Egyptian brickworks. We eat unleavened bread and drink wine at key moments. At the end of the meal we step outside into our garden and remember Gethsemane, realising anew why the disciples, after a party of a meal and all that wine, found it so hard to stay awake with Jesus.
And perhaps it’s right, in the midst of all the tinsel and baby focus of Christmas, to remember that this is only the beginning of His story and to not lose sight of how it ended – and began again.