Unlike the hurried time leading up to Christmas, the 40 Days leading up to Easter are relatively quiet. Unless one celebrates this season called Lent, it passes by unnoticed. Some who do acknowledge this period of time may attend an Ash Wednesday service where they take Communion, wash feet and have a cross imprinted with ashes upon their forehead.
A lot of Protestant or Fundamentalist churches do not necessarily celebrate Lent; some of their members may give up something during this 40 Days (chocolate, anyone?) or do something that honors God, remembers Jesus, and acknowledges the Lenten season. As a past Presbyterian, I've celebrated Lent with the cross made of ashes upon my forehead, given up chocolate, read more Scripture; as a Southern Baptist, it's not exactly a church tradition. I personally like the 40 Days of preparation and expectation leading up to Easter.
The Jewish holiday of Passover correlates with the Easter to some degree. For Passover, God instructed the Hebrews who were fresh out of Egypt to prepare for Passover: kill an unblemished lamb, mark the doorways with its blood, rid the house of yeast and leavened bread -- all symbols of Jesus, His sacrifice, and sin respectively. I believe it's important to mark these traditions and seasons in preparation for the greatest holiday in Christianity -- Resurrection Day!
Most people think of Easter and think of bunnies, eggs and whatnot (chocolate, anyone?), but it is so very important that Christian parents lay the groundwork for our children that Easter is much more than wearing new pastel dresses and tackling kids for Easter eggs. It's important that Christian parents instill in their children a knowledge of what Resurrection Day is about: Jesus. That's all. It's about Him.
With children, they tend to learn when it's fun. Crafts for the Lenten season can be fun and help prepare for the morning when we remember that the tomb was empty. Lent is a time of introspection of our sins and adoration for Jesus -- and what He did for us.
One craft requires a large, fairly shallow planter, filled with dirt. Place a clay flower pot on its side, cover the top with dirt, and plant grass. Use river stones to form a path to the pot; find a large stone and put beside the pot like it's the rock that blocked the entrance to the tomb. Have the kids take proportionally-sized sticks, form them into crosses using string to hold them together (brown yarn works great) and stick them in the planter.
By Easter, you should have grass growing in the planter, and a very empty tomb. This makes a great centerpiece by the way for your meal.
Like the paper chains that are wound around Christmas trees, have the kids cut out similar size paper strips from white cardstock. You can keep the strips, a stapler or tape, and a marker in a basket where this can easily be crafted each day.
Every day leading up to Easter, have each child write on his or her own paper strip a Scripture from the Bible (Old or New Testaments) about Jesus, the cross, or the Resurrection. and prayer requests. Staple or tape the paper strips together to make a chain, and keep this going throughout the 40 Days leading up to Easter. By the time Resurrection Sunday arrives, you will have a long white paper chain to decorate the dining room by hanging from the ceiling, draped to the chandelier, etc.
For each child, buy a small canvas and some art paint -- it doesn't have to be expensive. Also buy vinyl letters. Have the children spell out a phrase or verse with the vinyl letters on the canvas. Make sure the letters are secured tightly to the canvas so the paint doesn't get underneath them.
Have the kids paint the canvases with any colors they choose. If you want to use finger paint and make this a tactile project, that's great -- plastic drop cloths are cheap and the kids need to be bathed anyway. Then, once the paint is completely, totally dry (this is important), use a sharp craft knife to remove the vinyl lettering. The verse will be white and surrounded by color...imagine the words of John 3:16 in white on a background of reds, purples and blues. Hang these artworks proudly and save them for next year too.
Nothing is more important than family devotions -- especially in the context of Easter. Take time out of your busy schedule to read the Bible stories about Jesus, His ministry, death and Resurrection to the kids (use a Bible story book for the younger set). Talk about it. Read about Passover and what this all means.
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 states, "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates." We are instructed to teach our children about God. We are commanded to share the Gospel -- we are poor parents if we trot all over the globe on mission trips but never share the Gospel to our own kids.
Children will not be Christians just because their parents are. They have to choose, but parents are commanded by God to lead them to Him.
The Lenten season provides us a way to share the Gospel in different ways that engage children and allow them to participate. Make sure, though, you don't think they will hear the Gospel message through finger paint and dirt -- explain what this all means. Explain the empty tomb. Explain the cross. Explain the why of what Jesus did for us. Lent is an incredible opportunity to share Jesus in preparation of that bright morning when the stone was rolled away, and the tomb was found to be empty.
(C) 2016 Terrie McKee
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