Palm Sunday we begin our Lenten Lights devotion written by Noel Piper. Each night we do a short devotion using candles. It is a series of 8 devotions than can be done once a week during the 8 weeks of Lent leading up to Easter or can be done once a day for the week leading up to Easter. We chose the daily for the week leading up to Easter. The devotion centers around 7 candles- I use tea lights on a tray around a cross. One the first night you begin with all 7 candles lit and during the devotion you snuff out one candle. Then night two, you start with only 6 lit and snuff out another, until on Good Friday you snuff out the last candle. Then on the Saturday before Easter, you do not light any candles as Christ has died, his followers were devastated, it appeared darkness and sin had won. Then on Easter Sunday you light all 7 candles again because Jesus, the Light of the World, is Alive!! Sin and death have been defeated. The devotions are a little bit over our kids' heads, so paraphrasing is needed, but easy to do. You can combine this with readings from the Jesus Storybook Bible that coincide with the devotion (Last Supper, Crucifixion, Resurrection). Each night we have a time for the boys to respond in their journals. It is always amazing to see how much they clearly understood from the devotion. If you are interested in the Lenten Light devotion click here (it's free!).
I love Noel Piper's book Treasuring God in Our Traditions. It is a free PDF if anyone is interested in reading it. I highly recommend it. In her chapter on Easter she has a recipe for playdough that you make and then bake in the shape of a hill, but on the backside of the hill you use a can to create a tomb- so really the hill is hollow. And then on Palm Sunday you create people out of pipe cleaners and each day of the holy week you reenact the part of the story that occurred that day- the triumphant entry, the passover meal and last supper, Jesus in the garden, etc. And on Good Friday you put a cross on the top of your hill and reenact the crucifixion as you read the story from the Bible. Take Jesus down off of the cross and place him in the tomb and roll a stone over the entrance. Then on Saturday night after the kids go to bed, take Jesus out of the tomb and put him somewhere for the kids to find! Place angels at the entrance of the tomb. Last year the boys were more excited about seeing the empty tomb than they were about their Easter baskets! This is also a great place to use the Jesus Storybook Bible- read it and then reenact the story- if you don't use it in the Lenten Lights. I usually do this part of our traditions during the day with the kids as a part of our homeschool lessons and the Lenten Lights is our family devotion time when Jack is home. If you are interested, I recommend downloading the book as it has a much better description of what to do!
On Good Friday we will do our Basket full of Blessings. On Good Friday, we'll go on a rock hunt and gather rocks. Then we'll paint the rocks black to represent our sins which Jesus died for. We like to talk about how our hearts are bad and that sin is not just the bad things we do, but that we need a new heart. This has led to awesome conversations with the boys as they are painting their rocks. Once they are dry, we put the rocks in the kids' Easter baskets and leave them out. During the day Saturday as we see the rocks, we can talk again about sin and about Jesus' death. We talk about the fact that our sin has condemned us and all we should get is a basket full of rocks. We've done nothing to deserve gifts. Saturday night after the kids are in bed, we'll remove their rocks from their baskets and replace them with treats. Then when they wake up on Sunday morning, the rocks in their baskets have been replaced with blessings! Jesus' death paid the price for our sin and His resurrection gives us victory over death! It is the great exchange on kid level- our sin for Christ's righteousness- rocks for gifts.
On Easter Sunday we'll make resurrection rolls for breakfast. These are super easy and a great illustration. Use crescent rolls, marshmallows, melted butter, sugar and cinnamon. Dip the marshmallows in butter and roll them in the sugar and cinnamon- this represents Jesus after he has died and his body was prepared for burial. Then put the marshmallow inside of the crescent roll- make sure to pinch all of the seams so that the marshmallow won't ooze out. This is Jesus in the tomb. Bake the rolls according to the directions on the package. When they are done, open the crescent rolls to reveal and empty tomb! The marshmallow melts into a sugary, gooey yum and the tomb is empty.
That's it! I hope this sparks some ideas for you to use in your families. I am looking forward to a week celebrating the Savior!