Christmas has become the big holiday among Christians. Reflective of the culture at large, we build up to it with advent wreaths, special "hanging of the greens" services, cantatas, etc. Unfortunately, Easter in many evangelical churches is ignored until Palm Sunday and sometimes until Easter Sunday arrives.
Easter is the "Superbowl" of the Christian calendar yet we treat it as footnote. So, here are a few ideas of ways to make Easter a bigger deal in your home. As I say at the end, there are many ways to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ. The biggest problem among evangelical Christians is that we are not celebrating at all. We are missing the party! Here are some ideas...
We tried to start at least a month out in our home, though Ash Wednesday is a great time to start. Each week we have a family devotion that builds toward the Resurrection. This year we started with creation and are working our way toward our need for Christ. Each devotion is interactive and the kids have to play parts of the story.
Devotions Leading Up to Easter:
Week one was about the truth that God created us because He loves us. He wants us to enjoy Him forever. We only experience love when there is a choice. Adam & Eve had the choice between selfishness and love. Each child played a part as Adam, Eve, the snake, the tree of life, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
Week two was about why things are messed up in the world. Thus, we talked about sin and how it came into the world. In the story of Adam & Eve, they chose selfishness over love and it changed not only them, but all of creation. Death reigned. Yet, God used these failures and through Eve's offspring, life would once again become an option. The kids had to put on "animal skins" (furry blankets or jackets) to remind them that blood was shed to cover the sin of Adam & Eve. Likewise, Jesus would shed His blood to cover our sin.
Week three was about learning the meaning of redemption. It is not so important that kids remember the word as much as the idea. Michael arrested Jacob for stealing Savanna's pet. Jacob was put in "handcuffs and jail." We used the fireplace hearth as "jail." Mom came along and paid his fine. It was a free gift from Mom, but would Jacob accept it? If he accepted this free gift like we can accept the free gift of forgiveness from Christ, then that would be the key to unlock the handcuffs. Admitting our sin and receiving Christ as Lord and Savior unlocks the bonds of sin.
Week four was about our inheritance in Christ. We set up an ancient "village" by Jacob, Savanna, and Mom sitting in different spots around the den. They were sitting in their "homes" in the village. I was the village idiot, I mean the village candy maker and Michael was my son and apprentice. We made rounds selling our candy. Using Monopoly money, the "villagers" paid us for candy (which was real). Even my apprentice ate some of the inventory! We went through the village twice and we talked about how after many years of selling candy, I will make lots of money (though a third was missing due to taxes). Then I "died" and Michael inherited my money. Michael was happy, which is a little disturbing! Then I pulled out a gold coin and asked them what was worth more, Monopoly money or a gold coin. Monopoly is trash compared to a real coin (a gold $1 coin is an effective prop here). But all the money in the world is trash compared to what Christ wants to give us.
This week, Holy Week, we are preparing for a seder meal on Wednesday evening that helps tell the story of God using Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. It also helps tell the story of the death and resurrection of Jesus. We modify it from the traditional seder but keep the idea. The food helps tell the stories. It is also helpful and fun for the kids to watch a movie about the exodus to make the meal easier for them to understand. The Prince of Egypt and the History Channel's The Bible is helpful (though the latter is not suitable for smaller kids).
Our menu consists of:
During the meal, we will talk about the food and what it means in the stories of Moses and Jesus. This year the kids will clean up part of the house before the meal as a lead-in to how Jesus wants to clean us up. I will hide pieces of Popped rice snacks around the house. They are made by Quaker and are little circular snacks that taste kind of like popcorn. I got cheddar flavor this year. They will have to find these and can eat them of course. They are to remind them of the "bread of life" that God provided to the Israelites in the wilderness and that Jesus ultimately is the bread of life. They will also have to find leavened rolls (one for each of us) that are puffed up. Like traditional seders, removing these rolls is like removing the "leaven in the house" which is representative of sin, and on Good Friday we will stomp on them them as a symbol of Jesus stomping the head of Satan. (Then our dog will enjoy the flattened buns as a treat!)
Good Friday through Resurrection
This is a tomb I built out of pavers. The round stone is a rubber composite and it rolls in front of the opening to "seal" the tomb. On Good Friday, we place Jesus on the cross.
The crucifix we bought has a "removable" Jesus on it. The nails actually come out and you can take him off. It is a Fontanini figurine. The same brand as our Christmas Nativity set. This way, Jesus can be put on the cross and the cross is put on top of the tomb in a hole I bore out to fit. He stays there until almost sundown at which point he is removed, wrapped in a cloth and put into the tomb. We have Roman soldier figures to "guard" Jesus on the cross and even at the tomb.
The kids are not allowed to open the tomb until Sunday morning. When they do, they only find the cloth and no Jesus. Then they have to search the house to find him. This is a figurine of the "risen" Jesus dressed in white (another Fontanini product). When one child find him, they are to go get the others and take them to meet him to. When they find him, they also find a gift. It is meant to be fun and remind them of the gift of life Jesus gives.
Obviously, this may not yet be appropriate for younger kids. However, if the simple portions of the Easter story are given at early ages, it can be the foundation to build upon for later and this can be used. Our kids are eight and nine. Plus, every child is different and some are ready for some things sooner than others.
I found this idea from catholicicing.com. Thought it was a great treat for Easter and a great reminder of an empty tomb. The point is to make Easter a big deal in our home because Easter is a BIG DEAL! Resurrection eggs can be helpful and fun and we have used them. Eggs can be a symbol of new life, but if they are only presented as a vessel for candy delivery, then our kids will miss the point and miss the gospel. Instead, let the egg be the new life and the candy a taste of how sweet that new life is in Jesus. There are many ways to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ. The biggest problem among many evangelical Christians is that we just are celebrating it! Let's change this!