Article courtesy of ParentLife magazine.
Last year, my understanding of Easter was changed forever.
I awoke that morning just like every other Sunday—I gathered my family, rushed to church, sang praise songs and thanked God for Jesus' victory over death.
And that was it.
Once the sun set, my mind was racing with thoughts about the next day like a runaway train, whistle screaming, engine chugging furiously. That is, until I felt a sudden pin-prick conviction from the Holy Spirit.
Everything screeched to a halt.
The Holy Spirit helped me realize that this was more than just another Sunday and unfortunately, I hadn't set aside any time to spiritually prepare or reflect.
At that moment, I made a note to do something different, so this year I plan to observe Lent. (Read: "Should Your Family Observe Lent?") And more specifically, I felt led to introduce it to my son. When I asked him what he knew about Lent, he responded: "Isn't that when you give up something?"
Most simply, Lent is the period of 40 weekdays before Easter. It begins on Ash Wednesday, and Sundays are not counted. Lent is often observed with an element of self-denial, but when you observe intentionally with your family, it can be a rich and rewarding experience.
1. Reflect with your children.
If I don't use Lent as a time of personal reflection, I run the risk of Easter becoming an excuse to buy a new outfit and go on an egg hunt.
I know that Christ's victory over death is the source of all my hope, but I need to remember that this hope does not just spring up from the empty grave—it floods down from the cross.
By observing Lent in our home, I want to help my son grow spiritually. I want him to understand that we need to prepare our hearts to experience the joy of the resurrection. This begins by examining our hearts for sin and gently explaining the hard reality that our sin is what nailed Jesus to the cross. We need to ask God to help us clean sin out of our hearts and pour them full of His goodness.
The observance of Lent can take many forms. There are a number of devotionals available to help families make Lent a meaningful time of growth and reflection.
Daily prayer and Scripture reading are key elements for many families. These are especially good disciplines for families who haven't always been committed to praying together and spending time in the Word each day. Reaching out to others with gifts of time, money and service are also common Lenten practices.
2. Guide your children through the meaning of sacrifice.
Lent often involves sacrifice.
Historically, the season of Lent commemorates Christ's 40 days of fasting in the wilderness before beginning His ministry. Many people choose to abstain from a favorite item or activity during Lent. Doing this allows us—in a microscopic way—to identify with all Jesus sacrificed for us.
When our children are deciding what to fast from, it is important to remind them that a true sacrifice must cost us something. For my son, that means giving up video games; giving up vegetables is not a true sacrifice.
Likewise, I need to remind myself that foregoing fast food hardly creates a cramp in my lifestyle. However, skipping my morning coffee is another story.
3. Read Scripture together.
There are plenty of effective ways to read Scripture with your children. However one creative way to read and garner interaction is to set up a reading workplace at a table in your home. At the workplace you'll need a Bible, a pen, a stack of 40 small note cards (one for each day of Lent) and a small box.
If you have a study Bible, use the index and notes to find passages that focus on the state of man's heart. During your preparation, identify qualities that God wants for our hearts—commitment, humility, brokenness—and write one word on each card along with a definition and a sample passage.
Each evening after dinner, read one card aloud with your children. This will be a good time to talk about what the word means and discuss how you can cultivate that heart quality. It will also be a good time for questions and answers, where you can truly dig into the Bible together.
If desired, you can make notes about goals and challenges on the backs of the cards before slipping them into the box. Then pray and ask God to help keep your hearts focused on Him.
Easter is more than a day for brightly colored eggs and wicker baskets chock full of candy. A celebration as momentous as this requires preparation and reflection. But with a little bit of effort, intentionality and time, you can spiritually prepare—and involve your kids too.