What we do as a family to prepare for Easter during the last week of Lent - Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday:
1. Each night we watch a devotional DVD that our pastor prepared for our church a few years ago – there is a short devotion for each night along with activities and props.
2. On Palm Sunday I light five Lenten candles – each night I extinguish one candle. In this way we count down to Good Friday and Christ’s death on the cross which we remember on Good Friday and on which day the last candle is blown out. The candles remain dark through Saturday until Easter Sunday morning at which time I rise before the children and light all the candles. That way they are greeted with lit candles and are reminded that Christ is no longer in the grave, but has risen. On Sunday morning we greet one another with the words “Christ is risen!” and respond with, “Christ is risen indeed!”
3. Throughout the week and on Easter Sunday morning we read the appropriate passages from the Bible relating to the last days of Christ – some readings are read from a Children’s ESV Bible and some are read from our personal ESV Bibles.
In these ways we hope to prepare our hearts and our children’s hearts for Easter so that Easter for them is about more than rabbits, eggs, and candy.
First – I took the idea for Lenten candles from a wonderful little book by Noel Piper entitled “Treasuring God in Our Traditions” in her book she suggests lighting one candle on each of the seven Sundays that lead up to Easter. I took her idea and modified it to fit our busy life and the attention spans of little children, but I still like her original idea. I highly encourage you to read her book. You will be blessed. There is also a wonderful section in the very back about why children should attend worship with their parents. It is entitled “The Family Together in God’s Presence” and is quite wonderful and encouraging.
Second – I would like to extend a special thanks to one of Mark’s Thinkling Friends who gifted him at Christmas with the most wonderful children’s Bible. I have to confess that when I saw the Bible I immediately snatched it up and he has hardly seen it since. It has become the Bible that I read from each night as I tuck the children in. I love the illustrations in this Bible. They are truly beautiful. Thanks, Jared.
Surely He has borne our grief’s and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities…All we have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. –Isaiah 53:4-6
But what is most astonishing about this substitution of Christ for sinners is that it was God’s idea. Christ did not intrude on God’s plan to punish sinners. God planned for Him to be there. One Old Testament prophet says, “It was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief” (Isaiah 53:10).
This explains the paradox of the New Testament. On the one hand, the suffering of Christ is an outpouring of God’s wrath because of sin. But on the other hand, Christ’s suffering is a beautiful act of submission and obedience to the will of the Father. So Christ cried from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). And yet the Bible says that the suffering of Christ was a fragrance to God. “Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:2). –John Piper