If I want red and green M&Ms, I can often find them in late September, three months before the day we commemorate Christ’s incarnation. However, if I want a sugar rush from a Cadbury Cream Egg or some Peeps, the window of availability is much more limited for the Easter season. If candy is any measurement, our culture seems more eager to emphasize Christ’s incarnation to a greater degree than his substitutionary sacrifice. Yet, as Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 15:3–4, Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection are of first importance for the Christian faith. Since it is so central to our faith, it deserves more than a weekend of celebration.
If we just tell the stories of Jesus’ death on Friday and resurrection on Sunday, we have to leave out a lot of information. To understand the significance of Easter and Christ’s resurrection, people, including children, need to have a bigger picture of him than a baby in a manger and a dying man on a cross. We need to better understand all of Scripture, which is usually more than a weekly Sunday School class can provide. It would be helpful to use the week before –– or the year before –– to prepare our families for understanding the wonder of the resurrection.
Making a plan
The time leading up to Easter is a perfect opportunity to talk with your kids about Jesus preaching, traveling, having friends, doing wonderful works, and being human in every way but also perfectly God. Consider doing a special focus in your family devotions on Easter. This could be the start of an ongoing pattern of family discipleship. The chance of success in creating a habit will improve if you have at least the beginnings of a plan.
You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. The goal of family devotions isn’t to be the most creative or exciting. You really shouldn’t discover anything that someone else hasn’t already taught. But along the way, you will discover that your whole family will be more aware of Christ. He will be closer to the front of your mind for longer periods of time throughout your days, and you will be more connected to each other as you ponder his life, ministry, and nature. This is a blessing whether you begin the week or the year before Easter.
Here are a few suggestions for beginning:
Go ahead and start, even if you haven’t found the perfect schedule or resource. Consistently doing something imperfect is better than waiting for the perfect thing to drop in your lap.
Pick a time of day or part of your family’s routine to link with the devotional activity: before or after a meal, before bed, or as soon as you walk in the door in the evening.
Keep it short and simple, especially if your children are very young or this is your first attempt at family devotions.
Use multiple senses. Seeing and hearing are obvious, but it’s good for the children to vocalize, too, by reading, reciting, or repeating. Touch and motion can be engaged by coloring, song motions, sitting, and standing.
Give the older children more of a role. They can read the Scripture passage or an accompanying devotion. They can cue up a song or hymn. Ask them to close in prayer.
Keep it centered on the Bible. Devotional books can be a great resource but cannot replace the reading of passages, books, and the whole of Scripture. Let your kids see you handle a physical Bible as you read to them, and encourage them to follow along or to look up passages in their own copies of God’s Word.
Don’t quit if you miss a day or two. Just pick up on the next opportunity and carry on.
We live in an era with an amazing abundance of resources. Whether for this year or next, here are a few ideas assorted by timeframe:
More than a month to go: One of my favorites is the Jesus Storybook Bible, which you can get through in this timeframe by reading 1-2 chapters per day. As another example is a 40-day devotional for families that works through the names of Jesus and their meaning. There are many other good resources available in different formats and price ranges.
Two weeks until Easter: Try reading one parable and one miracle from Matthew every day until Palm Sunday.
Beginning on Palm Sunday: Read from Scripture or a biblically accurate storybook about Jesus’ triumphal entry. Each day, read a little more, leading up to the crucifixion on Friday, burial on Saturday, and resurrection on Easter.
Family discipleship is best accomplished on an ongoing basis, embedded within the normal patterns of life. If your church emphasizes the Easter story through sermons or children’s curriculum, make connections and encourage your children to as well. If you are able to get started on family devotions this Easter, carry the habit forward.
We are called to teach our children diligently as we walk along (Deut 6:7) Let them see the joy of seeing Jesus fill your heart. As J. I. Packer writes in Knowing God, “we turn each truth that we learn about God into matter for meditation before God, leading to prayer and praise to God.” May this Easter season be the beginning of a pattern of family discipleship that has a generational impact for the Kingdom of God. This is a good habit to adopt whether it is the week before, the year before, or just after Easter.