Sunday, April 17, 2011

Holy Week for families

Dear Friends
This post is quite a bit longer than what I normally write, but I have such a deep desire to share with you what I have learnt recently about ways in which Christian parents can really minister the redemptive message of easter to their little ones.  It is my prayer that you will be encouraged and blessed by this.

We worship at a charismatic Protestant church where the liturgical year of the church is not really observed. We do have special Christmas and Good Friday services, but that is about the extent to which the traditional seasons of the church is acknowledged.

   Yet, a while ago I one day found a link on Ann Voskamp's blog, A Holy Experience, that really made me think differently about the significance that observing the liturgical year can have for Protestant Christians. It was an article by Mark Roberts called An Introduction to the Christian Year (you can read this excellent article by clicking on the linkin which he beautifully explains the Liturgical Year, the colours of the Christian year, and how being mindful of these "can enrich the variety of our worship..." and therefore " us to have a broader, deeper, and more vital relationship with the living God."

NOT a Biblical Demand

   I believe that legalism is one of the easiest snares we as Christians can get entangled in, and therefore I want to be very clear that for us, observing the seasons of the church is not something we HAVE to do. As Mr Roberts said in his article

"Nothing in Scripture demands recognition of the church year. We do not have in the New Testament some equivalent to Leviticus 25, where God lays out for Israel the major fasts and feasts during the year. So, although the liturgical year is structured around the biblical story of Jesus, it is not commanded in Scripture in the way of the Jewish holidays for the Jews. Of course, Christians aren’t commanded to celebrate Easter or Christmas in the way we do either. The church year, therefore, is not something all Christians must observe, or must observe in exactly the same way. (In fact, Eastern Orthodox believers have a different pattern throughout the year and even celebrate Easter on a different day!)
Nevertheless, I believe that an awareness of the liturgical year can enrich our worship and therefore our relationship with God." [my emphasis]

And a little more reading...

  A little while after I read this article, I was reading an excellent fictional trilogy by South African author Marzanne Leroux-Ten Boom that tells the story of a young South African man who discovers his Jewish roots and decides to visit Israel in search of some relatives. He ends up marrying a young Jewish girl and together they start carving out a life for themselves amidst the volatility of current-day Israel. It is an amazing story, but what really impacted me even more was the author's meaningful insight into Jewish tradition and how it is interpreted and applied by Messianic Jews. I loved reading about the Jewish festivals and how they make up the 'bones' of Jewish life. I was especially touched by the way Jewish families celebrate Passover, and by the beauty of the Seder meal.  

And then the last straw!

   In the April 2011 edition of a local Afrikaans Christian woman's magazine (LEEF met hart en siel, for my local readers) Lizette Murray wrote an article about how families can celebrate Easter in a God-honouring, Jesus-glorifying way by surrounding ourselves and our children with tangible reminders of the suffering He endured, and His glorious victory over death. It took my breath away! I read it over and over and really felt God's gentle nudge to start preparing my heart and our home for an encounter with Christ during this Holy Week. (I will do a separate post with snippets from the article to encourage you!)

   I asked God to show me how!! The magazine article was a great start, but the very next morning I also opened my inbox to find this post by Ann Voskamp: Why a Christian Family May celebrate Passover: A Messianic Seder. Oh, and then this one: How To Make an Easter Garden. And from there on the Lord just lead me to the most wonderful resources, many of which I will love to share with you over the next few days. 

Only God can touch our children's hearts

  I hope you will take time to read the prayer I posted yesterday about my surrendering this week and all that we will be doing at the feet of Jesus. I am realizing more and more that I am just an instrument in God's hand: I can do many things to teach and instruct my little ones, but only God himself can work in my children's hearts, turning my feeble attempts into something lasting and true.

A little glimpse into our week:

  Again, I draw inspiration from Mrs. Voskamp! Please visit her blog to see these breathtaking Advent and Lenten rings her son makes. However, with the exchange rate between our countries being what it is, I was just not able to purchase one of them. So I borrowed from her idea and went to the garage to see what I could come up with. I found a piece of Supawood left over from a project, and painted it in squares of Lenten and Easter colours. 

In case you are interested, here are the colours:
Palm Sunday: Grey (the colour associated with most donkeys :-), and to signify Jesus' sadness over Jerusalem)
Monday to Wednesday: ever-darkening hues of purple 
Thursday: deep wine red, to remind us of the wine of the New Covenant
Friday: Red, for the blood that was shed for us
Saturday: Black, as we mourn His death 
Sunday: White, to celebtare His glorious resurrection!

Starting on Palm Sunday we will move the figure of Jesus forward one space every evening, and a light a candle on each new square. Except for Friday and Saturday. These are days of mourning. 

I made a rather rough little plate and cup out of clay for Thursday night to represent the Last Supper, and on Friday the figure of Jesus will not be on the board. A simple wooden cross will instead remind us of the Son of God who bore our sins and shame.

I got the idea for this Holy Week banner from Diary of a Sower. She made one for each of her children to hang on their doors and add an element on each of the significant days of this week. Ours will hang in a prominent place in our home, and the children will add a little felt reminder on the appropriate day.

The symbols fasten with velcro.

Sometime during the week will also plant our own easter garden. We've already gathered our supplies, and I made a clay tomb and stone. More about how we will use this later in the week...

I have also printed out beautiful colouring pages for Sweetpea to enjoy as we go through the week.

I am not sure if we will get around to this ourselves this year, but here are some amazing Christian Easter Crafts you may want to use with your own children this week: (Click on the links)

I love love LOVE this Resurrection Set from Catholic Icing!! If I can get 10 toilet rolls together by Sunday, we are definitely doing this!!

Last Supper Craft, also from Catholic Icing. This will be the first thing we do next year, when Sweetpea is just that little bit older. I will be keeping my eyes peeled for a print of the famous painting in the meantime, and use the suggestions for studying a bit of art as well!

I think making this Life of Jesus mini book from DLTK will go a long way in helping little ones see the whole picture of Jesus's time on earth.


   I have been struggling for days about whether or not to do a post about why we do NOT buy or eat easter eggs, or use it as a symbol or in cutesy 'easter' activities. This is, however, something I feel VERY strongly about, so I have decided to provide you with some links for information about the pagan origins of these symbols. Please click here  or  here (this is an especially well researched article). And if you would like to learn about where hot cross buns come from, click here. (This, by the way, was not written from a Christian perspective.)

My husband is leaving for a missions outreach to Botswana later this week, so we will be celebrating our Seder meal on Monday night instead of Thursday. I am very, very excited about sharing it with you, but I still need to go sew the table cloth for this special dinner, so off I go! May you and yours be blessed this week!

I am linking this post to Impress your Kids, who is having a Meaningful Easter Link-Up. She calls it Making it about the Lamb and not the bunny!! (I love that!!)


  1. Oh, I love love love it! The pathway is just brilliant. I thought I had it all figured out what we were going to do this week but now I have so many new great ideas.

    Thank you for sharing your heart with us--I feel the same way as you, that we really CAN show our children the REAL story of Jesus' resurrection.

    {ps--no eggs here, either!}

  2. Thank you for mentioning my blog, Diary of a Sower, and for stopping by! Your Holy Week banner is great! I also love your adaptation of the prayer circle and plan to put it on my list of "to do's" for next year. I think my kids would really enjoy walking the Jesus figure from day to day. Love your blog and will be following you!


  3. Hi Amanda!
    Thanks so much for stopping by! I know what you mean - I had everything sorted for this week, but there are just so many wonderful, meaningful ideas around that I hardly know what to do and what to leave! I made a folder on my computer where I now store all the inspiring ideas, so that I can revisit them next year this time.

  4. Dear Cheryl,

    Thanks for your enthusiasm and kind words! And you are oh, so welcome here at Joyful Mama's Place - thanks for popping in to say hello, and may you enjoy visiting here many, many more times!


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