Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-7

13 March 2011

Getting ready for Easter

In the month leading up to Christmas, with the help of an Advent calendar, we like to take our boys through what the Bible has to say about the first Christmas.  Every year we learn a little more about this season and it helps us to keep our focus during an otherwise highly distracting month.  After our first son's first Christmas it struck me, never having been in a church that particularly observed Lent, that it would be good to do a similar thing leading up to Easter.

We have tried various things - some years completely over ambitious and other years completely underwhelming.  Last year we tackled the last few chapters of Mark in bite sized readings, one a day for the twelve days leading up to Easter Sunday.Why twelve?  For the sake of a dozen eggs, in our case courtesy of Kinder Surprise - each with the reference for a daily reading enclosed. 

Last year I didn't really think this through or do any pre-reading organised the Mark readings in a rush and so of course on Easter Sunday we were met with:
"Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid."
which was a rather abrupt and unsatisfactory finish to what should have been a glorious moment around the Easter Sunday breakfast table!  A friend who did this along with us, whose children are a little older, also commented that at least one of her daughters found the readings, day after day, too intense given the challenging content. 

And each year I have felt that we really shouldn't stop on Easter Sunday with the resurrection.  A few important things happen after Jesus' resurrection that ought to be mentioned like Jesus' physical proof of his resurrection, how Jesus shows that the Old Testament pointed to himself, how he planned to send the Spirit when he returned to the Father's side and how we all have a job to do in light of all of this.

So this year I have put some thought into it. Here is the plan...

1. The triumphal entry (Matthew 21:1-11)
2. Jesus anointed at Bethany and Judas agrees to betray Jesus (Mark 14:1-11)
3. Jesus washes the disciples feet (John 13:1-17)
4. The last supper (Matthew 26:20-30)
5. Jesus predicts Peter’s denial (Mark 14:27-31)
6. Gethsemane (Luke 22:39-46)
7. Jesus arrested (Mark 14:43-52)
8. Before the Sanhedrin (Mark 14:53-65)
9. Peter disowns Jesus (Mark 14:66-72)
10. Jesus before Pilate (Mark 15:1-15)
11. The soldiers mock Jesus (Mark 15:16-20)
12. The crucifixion (Luke 23:26-43)
13. Jesus dies (Luke 23:44-49)
14. Jesus placed in the tomb (Matthew 27:57-60)
15. The women go to anoint the body (Mark 16:1-3)
16. The Resurrection (Matthew 28:1-10)
17. The road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35)
18. Appearing to the disciples (Luke 24:36-39)
19. Jesus and the Miraculous Catch of Fish (John 21:1-14)
20. The Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20)
21. The Ascension (Luke 24:50-53)

The key features of this plan are as follows...
1.  I will not be a slave to a dozen eggs! I am sure the boys will oblige in having a few more Kinder Surprises to add to our empty egg collection.
2.  The plan spans the four gospels and features each of the key events leading up to and covering the Easter story.  Where there was a choice of renderings I selected the one I thought was the most concrete and readily accessible to children.  Ultimately it will be good to be reading through each of the gospel accounts of Easter in their entirety but for now, this gets the full story across. 
3. We are planning to start soon so that we don't need to do an Easter reading EVERY day for the next twenty one days, to assist those (praise God) whose tender hearts find the content overwhelming.  As I write this there are six weeks until Easter so that gives plenty of time to get through all the readings comfortably.
4. The aim is to reach number sixteen on Easter Sunday - and then cover the last five over the following week or two.
5.  We probably won't do all twenty one readings straight from an adult Bible.  (The CEV Bible, by the way, is a very user friendly adult version to use with children - written in very plain English.)  To keep their interest up we will probably mix and match -a bit of adult Bible, a few readings from The Jesus Story Book (which covers the Easter story really well) and from other children's Bibles knocking about the place, perhaps listening to an audio version here and there.  We will mix and match as much as is needed to hold the children's interest.

And while that is happening I will also be doing my own reading leading up to Easter.  It's time to start dipping into Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross edited by Nancy Guthrie.  There are twenty five readings - which is about four readings each week in order to reach the end by Easter Sunday.  I am really looking forward to carving out a few quiet moments with a cup of tea a three or four times a week to work my way through this anthology.  I think I will begin this project tomorrow!


Karen said...

Thanks for posting this Meredith. It's a great idea. Our family did the Advent calendar last Christmas and it was a great way to get us reading the Bible together as a family. So I had good intentions of continuing the momentum but it hasn't quite worked out that way....we are doing regular quiet time as a couple but still have to get back into the swing of doing Bible readings as a family. Would it be OK to use your suggested readings and I will see if Easter can kick-start us up again??

Meredith said...

Oh sweet Karen! Of course you can use these suggested readings. You don't have to ask. That's why I posted case my little thoughts can be of help to someone else.

It will be interesting to see how it all works. We don't do regular family around the table Bible reading in our house - generally only in the lead up to Easter and Christmas. The rest is just daily, one on one, bedtime Bible reading. I think there is benefit in not doing Easter related readings every day for three solid weeks but today I am wondering if drawing it out too much will also create a problem. I guess mixing it all up in terms of Bibles and so on will help. Time will tell. I will probably blog about this next year at this time with the next plan!! And the year after that. And the year after that. Eventually I will get it right and then look up and realise that the kids have grown up and moved out of home!!!!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you. I have been wanting to get something organised for Easter, but the thought of working it all out was just overwhelming. I am about to order the book from the Book Depository too, as they have started sending to Chile again! It will be good for my soul, which has been less than quiet lately. Jo x

Meredith said...

Hello Jo. Thanks so much for visiting. What an honour for me. And that is an absolute pleasure. I hope it is helpful for you and your family.

We prayed for you and all your team as you all get used to being together again and as the work begins for the year at our state committee meeting just last week and we are having a prayer day on Saturday to do the same.

mattnbec said...

Thanks, Meredith! I have been thinking of doing the 'readings in the egg' but hadn't done any planning about what we'd actually do. Discovered that Red Dot have empty, multi-coloured plastic eggs too - packs of either 6 or 8 with funny faces or 10 without faces for $2.49 (in case this is of any use to anyone else. The queue at the checkout was too long for my children's already tested patience though. Now I'm determined to get back there ASAP to get the empty eggs!

x Bec

Meredith said...

Thanks for the Red Dot tip. That seems a cheaper option than eating our way through six more Kinder eggs and having six more small plastic toys for me to eventually throw away (or having a disappointed child who scored a jigsaw instead of a small plastic toy for the prize!!) Excellent!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Meredith, I appreciate you sharing your work on this too and plan to do it with my boys. This week I saw and snapped up empty, openable, coloured plastic easter eggs at Woolies -- the pack says 'Easter Surprise: 12 Easter egg containers' but they were hanging in the soft drink aisle. $3.49/pack love, Sal

Anonymous said...

I should also clarify -- do you print out the readings and tuck them in each egg? That's what I'm planning to do. I briefly considered including a smartie but have decided not to after the complete debacle of our advent calendar readings getting almost lost in the argument of who got which coloured smartie. Sal

Meredith said...

Hi Sal!
Thanks for the Woolies tip. I hear that Spotlight also does a line in empty plastic eggs. So plenty of options out there.

We just put the Bible reference and the "title of the story" in our eggs. R reads it out for us and then we let him try and find it in whatever book we are using - and N has a go if he recognises it.

And I don't think we will put in lollies or activities. I think the emphasis needs to be on what they are reading. Although at times (and we did this at Christmas as well) we might give them lollies or icecreams or whatever to eat while they listen to help hold them through the process.

One year we had a Lego Advent calendar that we were running in tandem with our Bible based one. Bible was completely lost to the Lego. Won't be doing that again!!