Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Are You Ready for Easter?

If you are the parents of young kids, you've probably been giving some thought to how you will celebrate the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus as we celebrate Easter in just a few days. There are many wonderful things you can do, including Resurrection Eggs and watching The Story of Jesus for Children, but I have a couple of activities that could also help your children grasp the meaning of Easter.

Have you ever made Easter Story Cookies with your kids? I recently found in my files a recipe from 30 years ago, when I worked with families at the Warm Beach Free Methodist Church. Some of the kids from those days are now married and raising their own children in the church today. I wonder if they remember these cookies!

Check out the recipe and the story that goes along with each step of the recipe. Be sure to follow the recipe very carefully. It's a wonderful objet lesson for kids -- and the cookies taste great! 

In the past I posted a blog about the Easter Scavenger Hunt that my friend Joy has hosted for the younger generation of her family. She put a lot of thought into it, and I think it is worth repeating. Here it is:

My friend Joy wondered what she could do to make the true meaning of Easter come alive for her family, so she began a tradition for them -- an Easter scavenger hunt. The children hunted eggs before dinner and later, while the family finished their dessert, she slipped out into the yard to hide two sets of artifacts. Then they all split up into two teams and each team was handed a list of the items they were to find (see below).

Step by step, from the triumphal entry on Palm Sunday to the angel at the empty tomb, the Easter story unfolded through the scavenger hunt instructions. Every member of the family participated, scouring the grounds together in search of the special items related to the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus. It's been a great hit with the family.

Maybe you can use her ideas, or modify them to fit with your family. Joy's items included a leaf from an olive tree and coins which her mother brought back from her travels in the Holy Land. Most of us will not have these wonderful, authentic items, but a small jar of olives and pennies covered with aluminum foil would make fine substitutes. Let Joy's hunt get your heart praying and your mind working on how you can creatively share the good news of the resurrection with family and friends. Those who have already heard can always use a fresh reminder. And for those who haven't, what better time than now?

Joy's Easter Scavenger Hunt
(Items we are hunting for are representative of items involved in the very first Easter. They are in bold.)

1. One week before Easter, Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem and was greeted by crowds of people waving palm branches. (Note: you may have to substitute a fern frond if you can't find palms.) (John 12:12-15)
2. At Jesus' last dinner with his disciples, he washed the disciples' feet and dried them with a towel. (John 13:1-5)
3. Also, at this last meal, Jesus took bread and broke it, saying, "This is my body..." (Matthew 26:26)
4. Jesus told the disciples that they would all run away and claim that they did not know him. Peter claimed that he would NEVER desert Jesus. Jesus said, "Before the rooster crows tomorrow, you will deny three times that you know me." (Note: Find a miniature toy rooster.) (Matthew 26:31-35)
5. After dinner, Jesus and the disciples went to the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives. (Find a genuine leaf from an olive tree in that Garden.) (Luke 22:39)
6. Soldiers came to the garden, looking for Jesus. Peter pulled out his sword and struck one of the soldiers, cutting off his ear. (Find an ear, or a picture of an ear, or draw a picture of an ear. No, your own ears do not count.) (John 18:10-11)
7. Judas was with the soldiers. He greeted Jesus and kissed him so that they would know who he was. Later, the high priest paid Judas 30 pieces of silver. (Find a bag containing two coins from the country where this happened.) (Matthew 26:14-16)
8. The rulers decided to kill Jesus by nailing him to a cross. (Find four nails -- one for each foot and each hand.) (Acts 2:22-23)
9. Before they crucified Jesus, they took thorns and made a crown of them for his head, mocking him. (Find at least two inches of some kind of thorn.) (Matthew 27:27-29)
10. When Jesus was on the cross, he was thirsty. One of the guards soaked a sponge in vinegar and gave it to him to drink. (Find a container of vinegar.) (Mark 15:36)
11. When Jesus was dead, they took his body to a cave and placed a large stone over the entry to the cave. (Find a stone at least four inches in diameter.) (Matthew 27:57-61)
12. Judas felt very sad and guilty for betraying Jesus. He took a rope and hanged himself. (Matthew 27:1-5)
13. On Easter morning, women who were friends of Jesus brought spices to his grave in the cave, to preserve his body. (Mark 16:1)
14. When the women got to the cave, they found the stone rolled away from the entrance to the cave, and an angel sitting on the stone. (Matthew 28:1-7)

However you choose to celebrate Easter with your family, be sure not to miss the chance to share the reality of God's love demonstrated through the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. It is the foundation of our faith, and your children need to hear it.

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