Like most youngsters in my era, I grew up thinking of Easter as a time for Easter eggs, candy, and new clothes.

I remember being outfitted with a new jacket and slacks, along with new shoes to wear to church on Easter Sunday. No matter if the shoes were a little large to allow for growing room, at least I looked good.

I also knew what Easter meant from a religious standpoint.

I heard the Bible stories about the trial and crucifixion of Jesus, about how he was placed in a borrowed tomb, which was then sealed by the Roman soldiers. But on the third day, he rose again. I remember singing, “Up from the grave he arose, with a mighty triumph o’er his foes!”

The pastor reminded us that the words Jesus spoke to Martha when he raised Lazarus from the dead were true for us too: “The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die” (John 11:25-26 NIV).

Then I remember that day, more than 60 years ago now, when as a teenager I went forward during a camp meeting. I knelt and invited Jesus into my life. Although I knelt at a wooden altar, it was as if I knelt at the foot of Jesus’ cross. The words of Isaac Watts became true for me: “At the cross, at the cross, where I first saw the light, and the burden of my heart rolled away, it was there by faith I received my sight, and now I am happy all the day.”

Because Jesus came into my life, the apostle John’s words resonated with me: “God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:11-12 NIV).

So today Easter is meaningful, not because of the candy and the clothes, but because I have Easter in my heart. I hope you do too.

— The Rev. Ron McClung, a former pastor of Owosso Wesleyan Church, now living in Indianapolis, Indiana, currently serves as the assistant general secretary for the denomination.

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