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2013, I have decided, is my year of celebration. And if ever there was a time to celebrate, now is the time. We’re getting ready to celebrate sacrifice, forgiveness, grace and the extraordinary hope of new life, motivated by a love that pales even the strongest human love into dull grey. Forget bunnies and chicks – this year, my friends, I want to celebrate Easter with a joyful exuberance befitting of its life-changing significance.
There are just two problems.
1) The Easter story is one of incredible joy – at the end. The rest of the story is filled with pain and suffering and anguish and mockery and beatings and humiliation and betrayal. Not easy to come up with a colour scheme for all that.
2) Easter should be bigger than Christmas, as far as Christians are concerned. But Christmas has become over-commercialised – we all know that – so how do we prevent Easter from going the same, horrendously materialistic route? And, even if our celebrations are not overly material, how can we keep our minds from being preoccupied with the celebrations, rather than the reason for it all?
I have come up with a few things. I’m not going with everything I brainstormed at the start of the year because, mindful of my latter point, it would be counter-productive to stress myself (and my family) out with too many little details. Also, this year my church is ‘slowing down’ for Lent – another reason to check my priorities, and spend this time with God, not planning Easter trimmings. (To read more about ‘slowing down’, check out the blog I wrote this week for my church womens’ group.)
My aim in all this has to be: to help our family understand and engage with the Easter story. So I’ve rejected ideas which wouldn’t work yet while my kids are young – or those which might distract us from worshipping Jesus more. Here’s what I’m left with:
1) We’ve already started some of the Easter stories from Alice’s wonderful blog (scroll down for Easter). If you have preschool children and you haven’t yet got the message about how much I LOVE Alice’s creative and playful re-telling of Bible stories, then you have a treat in store. (And you’re also probably blind and/or deaf. Get with it people – I’ve been moaning on about Play on the Word for an age.) My 1-year-old is riveted, wanting to listen and join in when she can. My 3-year-old is deeply moved (and so am I – man, I’m going to be a wreck when he leaves home). He’s asking questions and responding to the story in powerful ways.
2) I’ve just painted a hotch-potch collection of little Easter figures. There’s Jesus, the three women who stayed close, two angels, two criminals crucified alongside him, and two Roman soldiers. (These were my low point. Not so much soldiers as grey-haired, tabard-wearing nursery teachers.) OK, I’m not an artist. But we’ll use these figures – plus some rough crosses my lovely Dad helped me make – to act out the Easter story in our home over the next couple of weeks.
3) Lent eggs. Similar to an Advent calendar, but lasting just a week. (Can you imagine trying to count down all 40 days of Lent with a 3 year old?) I have seven plastic eggs, and will invite the kids to open one each day from Palm Sunday onwards, so we can count down to Easter Sunday together. In each will be two small chocolate eggs – one each – as well as a clue to the day’s activity – for example: making Easter cards, hunting for an Easter sticker book, making chocolate Easter egg nests. I hope that this build-up helps the kids to realise what a special day Easter is – and that the individual activities will help encourage conversation about what it all means.
4) We’ll make resurrection cookies on Easter Saturday. This is SUCH a cool idea you just have to take a look – I won’t up my word count unnecessarily. (And, again, I’m indebted to Alice for posting this link on her blog originally.)
In future years I’d like to explore how we can use Easter as a time for giving. If we’re celebrating new life and new hope, then it’d be great to consider ways we could give a new start to people in our community. I’m not talking huge presents for my own kids, who already have far too much, but perhaps giving away some of our stuff to those who are desperate for it, or making something personal for a friend who’s having a rough time, or writing letters or cards to encourage others, or giving money to local charities. A small start this year is that we’ve grabbed a few real Easter eggs and will be giving them to Joel’s little friends – a kind of Easter/farewell present, as we prepare to leave York.