Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Easter Series #1

1. How you could prepare for Easter with your family

I wonder how you 'prepare' for Easter with your family? Well if you are anything like me, up to now you have not really done anything at all. The most preparation that goes into your Easter may be buying some hot-cross buns and chocolate, deciding whether to go away for the long weekend, or deciding whether you will go to church on both Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

We have been the same, well - with some exceptions! We always go to church for both Good Friday & Easter Sunday, and never go away - but that is because Husband is a minister, so we sort of have to be there! (However, prior to him being in ministry I don't think I ever went to a Good Friday service and I very much liked going away for the Easter Long Weekend!)

However, I can certainly say that I have never thought much about 'preparing for Easter' at all. All that has changed though! Which leads me to the first idea...

i) A Bible Reading Plan

Having seen the massive benefit to our family of doing a 25 day advent calendar for Christmas, which included bible readings, prayer and thinking about the passage, I thought we should do one for Easter too.

Last year I searched online, and found this plan (Annie's Easter Eggs). It is a 12-day plan, each day reading a few verses relevant to a part of the crucifixion and resurrection. I taped up a cardboard cross, and each day we opened a little egg (sourced from Kinder Surprises), which contained an item relevant to the story. Then we blue-tacked the item to the cross, to remind us of each thing. It worked for us quite well.

However, having done it, I would have preferred a different emphasis for the bible readings - some that covered more of the time in the week leading up to Good Friday, rather than emphasising various aspects of the crucifixion itself.

So, I have done one myself - it is a 14-day plan, all from Matthew's gospel (my goal is to do 4 over the next 4 years - one from each gospel). It uses the NIrV as it is aimed at younger readers, I had my 6 year old in mind, assuming that my almost 4 year old will get something out of it too.

Each day has a bible reading, a few questions, a prayer and a picture to draw (my kids loved doing the drawings for Christmas and sticking them in a line around the wall).

Here is Day 1 - so you can get an idea.

Day 1
Jesus Predicts His Own Death
Bible Reading
Matthew 20:17-19
17 Jesus was going up to Jerusalem. On the way, he took the 12 disciples to one side to talk to them.
18 "We are going up to Jerusalem," he said. "The Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will sentence him to death. 19 Then they will turn him over to people who are not Jews. The people will make fun of him and whip him. They will nail him to a cross. On the third day, he will rise from the dead!"

What will happen to Jesus?
How does that make you feel?
Why did he go to Jerusalem even when he knew what was going to happen?
Dear God, thank you that even though Jesus knew what would happen to him in Jerusalem, he still went - willing to give his life for us. Amen
Jesus walking to Jerusalem
To keep up the excitement, each day has a little plastic openable egg, with the title of the day inside and most days have an item to remind us of the bible reading. (I got this idea from the Annie's eggs page, eg. 30c to remind of Judas betraying Jesus for 30 pieces of silver, or a stone to show that a stone was rolled in front of the tomb). We are using Kinder Surprise eggs, so if you want to do this too - go out and buy 14 Kinder Surprises (in our house the kids get the chocolate and toys in small amounts, and I get to keep the eggs!)
I have included some photos of some of them, I have not done them all yet - still more Kinder Surprises to open & eat!
(PS. the little handcuffs are from Police Lego!)

ii) Easter week

This is really a variation on the same theme above - search through the bible and try to date the events of the final week. Then read out those passages for each day. This will give children (and you!) a good idea of what actually happened on each day. (This idea is in Treasuring God in Our Traditions, Noel Piper). She also suggests making an "Easter Mountain" - a construction our of playdough, in which you can re-enact the events of each day, will people made out a 'chenille-sticks' (which I am assuming are pipe cleaners). A cautionary note she gives here is that once this gets silly for children, stop doing it - the death of Jesus is too serious to joke about. I am considering making the Easter Mountain and will post up photos if I do.
iii) Books to read

I am keen for ideas on this, as yet I have only come across one good book for Easter (although I haven't had a chance to have a good look around). Dave the Donkey (by Andrew McDonough of the Lost Sheep series) has written a fantastic book about Easter for children, told by the donkey who carried Jesus into Jerusalem and his Grandpa donkey. It is well-written, tells the story with appropriate seriousness, but also ends up celebrating 'Long live the King!'

iv) Other ideas

One friend, Lesley, suggested that prior to Easter (if she had a chance) she would "to do a taste and see over the next few weeks of the different foods in the traditional passover meal, talk about them, and then have all decide what you will actually eat on the Thursday before Good Friday." This could be helpful in thinking about various aspects of the passover in advance. My next post will discuss the idea of a Passover meal on Maundy Thursday - but if you plan to do one, you definitely need to prepare for it!
Do you have any other ideas? I would love to hear them!

I will post again in a few days about some ways to make Easter weekend itself a little more meaningful.


Nicole said...

I did an Easter series last year where I shared what our family do. Here's the intro post: http://168hrs.blogspot.com/2008/03/easter-traditions.html

Nicole said...

This one might be a better link: http://168hrs.blogspot.com/search/label/Easter

Pip said...

Another interesting topic Wendy!

Love the Easter Egg (aka Kinder surprise)idea - will definitely think of doing that next year. I'm interested to hear how it goes with your children.

Our current Easter Day tradition involves an a combined churches Easter program with donkey rides, jumping castle, BBQ and kids talk.

Another idea we used at our Kids church was the Easter tree - a leafless tree hung with painted eggs.

When my children are older I'll probably show them the Jesus movie (children version to start with) as I personally have found it very helpful to watch at Easter.

Kat said...

Thanks for another thought provoking post - I found your Christmas series so helpful.

I have seen packets of 12 plastic Easter Eggs available at lots of $2and variety shops this year - this could save people eating a lot of Kinder Surprises! I think I will try this idea this year (better get cracking!).

In the past, we have done a 'traditional' passover meal with adult friends, incorporating all the symbols for the mortar and bricks used in slaving in Egypt, the bitter herbs etc etc. It is quite long and involved (we did get some helpful material from Jews for Jesus). As an adult I have found this interesting and helpful, but I don't think my kids (3 and 5) would get much out of it at this stage. I don't think all the food and symbols of the traditional Passover meal are easily transferable to Jesus' death and ressurection, and I think it would confuse rather than help them.

On Good Fridays we have had a lunch with friends (including the kids) where we have eaten lamb, and read the relevant passages from Exodus regarding the passsover.

We the pass a cup of wine and break bread as we read Jesus' worlds from the last supper, we then read a NT passages about the death of Jesus.

John 1:29 (Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!) links the Exodus and NT passages well.

We have a red banner which we put up over the door frame at the right time during the readings (The banner has John 1:29 embroidered on it).

There is obviously a lot of symbolism here, and I think the children will 'grow into it' over the years, although I think last year my 4 year old did at least appreciate the gravity of the occasion, and seemed to understand something of Jesus' blood "protecting us" like the lambs blood did at passover.

I think this celebration also reminds us of what we are celebrating at church when we take communion (ie, that Jesus' death was a 'passover' for those who trust him).

Wendy said...

Thanks Nicole for the links, I should have assumed you would have done something on this already!

Thanks Philippa & Kat for the comments & more helpful ideas! And thanks Kat for the feedback on the Christmas series - I appreciate it.