First I will outline a brief history of the Passover festival.
Passover is the oldest and most important religious festival in the Judaism traditions, commemorating God’s deliverance of the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt and His creation of the Israelite people. The Passover festival begins at sunset on the 14th of Nisan (usually in March or April) and marks the beginning of seven day celebration that includes the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The focal point of Passover is a communal meal, called the Seder (which means “order”, because of the fixed order of service), which is time of rejoicing and celebration at the deliverance for the Hebrews that God accomplished in the exodus.
Since its inception Passover has traditionally been celebrated in the home with family and friends as they eat meal together. It has always been customary to invite guests to share the Seder meal, especially newcomers to the community. A Seder meal in most Jewish homes is an elaborate feast, with food, games for the children, and to tell the story of the Exodus from Egypt. It is not unusual for Seder to last three or four hours.
The Seder involves everyone present since they all share in this festival with reading and singing. While the father or grandfather is usually the leader of the service, others have roles as well. The mother of the home lights the festival candles that signal the beginning of Passover, the youngest child asks the four questions, the children help eliminate all Chametz,leaven, from the house,search for the hidden Afikomen (symbolic piece of Matzah, unleavened bread) and open the door for Elijah, the parents or the grandparents usually start to tell the story of the exodus, and various others are designated to read or lead certain portions of the service.
Passover is really more than festival. It is a teaching experience, especially for the children, intended to call people to their identity as the People of God. The Passover Seder tells the story of God’s grace in history and calls on all the participants to experience and share in the story as their own story.
There has been increasing interest among Christians in this ancient festival. There are several reasons for this renewed interest, they are: an increasing sensitivity to cultural and societal problems and corresponding desire to learn about others; renewed awareness of the importance of the Old Testament Scriptures as Christian Scripture; the desire and need in our modern world to recover sense of the sacred through liturgy and sacrament, and the willingness to find new and innovative ways to worship. Most importantly, however, is the wonderful picture the Passover gives to believers of what Jesus Christ, our Passover Lamb has accomplished for us.
I would encourage Christian families to begin a tradition of having a special Passover celebration. Children love this celebration and will look forward to it each year. It is a terrific teaching opportunity and helps us draw our focus toward the eternal significance of God’s and Jesus Christ’s passion. Good Friday would be the best day to consider, but anytime during the Easter season would be appropriate. A Christian Passover celebration is really not difficult, but it does require some planning so it would be best to start your arrangements a few weeks in advance.