I cut dogwood limbs from the tree in the front yard. Knobby grey buds are still tight, not yet ready to open. Pulling my earthenware pitcher down from the shelf, I place it on the table. The dogwood limbs go into the jug, along with some water.
The branches are now ready to be transformed into our Resurrection Tree. We’re getting ready for Easter by keeping Lent.
Traditionally, the purpose of Lent is to prepare one’s heart for the celebration of the Resurrection through prayer, repentance, fasting, and other forms of self-denial. Lent starts on Ash Wednesday and ends on Easter morning. It is usually forty days long, representing the forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness before starting his public ministry.
As my children have grown I’ve looked for ways to involve them in celebrating Jesus’ death and resurrection in tangible, hands-on ways. Ways that build up to Easter morning, so that they have a clear idea as to why we celebrate. The following are some activities we’ve done as a family to prepare for the celebration of resurrection morning as well as some resources just for you. I hope they will be inspiring to you, if you are looking to create new traditions of your own.
For the Whole Family
A Resurrection Tree
For those of you familiar with a Jesse tree, a Resurrection tree is the same idea. It is a collection of bare branches snipped from your yard and put into a vase or pitcher. On the twigs we hang ornaments that remind us of Christ, his crucifixion and resurrection. They usually correspond to Scripture readings that lead us through the Easter story. We created our ornaments from the free printouts of great master paintings that came with the Trail to the Tree download from A Holy Experience. Another free printout option for ornaments are these two versions: one color and one black and white.
The Messiah Mystery
Last year we used The Messiah Mystery devotional during Lent. The kids loved the mystery concept incorporated into the Bible readings. It is an interactive way to start thinking, preparing, and building anticipation for celebrating Easter morning.
The week of Easter I usually have the kids make an Easter Mountain. I first read about the idea in Noel Piper’s Treasuring God in Our Traditions. It is a especially great way to involve younger kids in talking about the resurrection story. Basically, kids make a play dough mountain, which after baking, is painted. On top you put a cross made out of sticks, and a tomb hallowed out from the mountainside. This mountain represents both Golgotha where Jesus died and the tomb from which he arose. You can find the directions to make your own Easter Mountain here.
A Homemade Year
A Homemade Year by Jerusalem Jackson Greer is my new favorite resource of inspiration for the liturgical church year. Part memoir, part craft book, part cookbook, it has all sorts of ideas to incorporate into Lenten celebrations from Ash Wednesday bonfires to Paschal-Inspired candles to a Maunday Thursday menu.
Just for You
She Reads Truth and He Reads Truth have Lenten devotionals for men and women. You can use the website for free or purchase a full-color study book.
Lenten Lights is a free devotional by Noel Piper I’ve used in past years.
Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross: Experiencing the Passion and Power of Easter, edited by Nancy Guthrie is a collection of readings by classic and contemporary authors centered on Christ’s sacrifice for us.
Does your family “keep” Lent? If so, please considering sharing how in the comments section!