Growing up in a church in the restoration movement, there was no liturgical calendar to follow. No Advent, no Epiphany, no Lent, no Good Friday. In fact, we didn’t even really acknowledge Christmas and Easter. “Them dern Catholics makin’ up special days and seasons that ain’t in the Bible…”
But in years since, I’ve found some benefit from the liturgical patterns. Not as ritual or sacrament, but as a way to focus on important historical/redemptive events in our home. The seasons and holidays serve as a great way to talk about what God has done and rejoice over it together. This seems to take the spirit of Old Testament celebrations and remembrances of God’s mighty acts (like the Passover) as a family event–without the law-driven requirement to do so.
One season we’ve found particular joy in using as an annual reminder of God’s intervention in history is Advent heading into Christmas. We use the Advent season as a time to learn the story leading up to the birth of Jesus. And then Christmas is a day where we celebrate and sing and dance and praise Jesus. All day. It’s pretty great.
But I find myself disappointed as we enter Lent (which starts today, if you’re not up on these things) because in scouring the internet I can find a gazillion books and resources and traditions on Advent for families, but a search for Lent ideas brings up…pretty much nothing. I find it disturbing because Easter is far more important than Christmas. I don’t mean the days themselves, but the events commemorated on those days–Christmas as the celebration of God-with-us, Easter of our Lord’s resurrection. Of course, you can’t have Easter without Christmas (theologically speaking), but Christmas without Easter is just a nice story with a cute baby, cuddly animals, and a pretty star.
And it bothers me that my kids can tell me far more about the shepherds and the angels and the magi and the manger than they can about the guards and the garden and the thieves and the tomb. “If Christ has not been raised, then our faith is in vain.” I want my kids seeing Easter as far more thrilling and celebratory than Christmas.
So with a lack of good resources out there, I’ve been pushed more into doing my own thing with Lent. But I really don’t have the time (nor the discipline!) to create something from scratch. And I’ve found that something daily, pre-written, and that has some hands-on portions for the kids go best for us.
So, here’s the great Lent/Easter experiment for 2014. We’re going to use this (free!) daily reading and devotional from NT Wright. Over the next 53 days, we’ll read through the entire gospel according to Matthew. Wright follows each reading with short devotionals which are insightful and engaging. We’ll also use blank 3 x 5 notecards and take turns drawing pictures of the events we just read about. Then we’ll tape those to the wall in order, a visual representation of the life of Jesus for the kids to see and reference throughout Lent. On Sundays, we’ll use six candles that will all be lit on the first Sunday of Lent and each following week will have one less candle lit (kind of an anti-Advent wreath) until Good Friday, when they’ll all be out. Then, as you probably guessed, they’ll all be lit (with even more candles all around too) the entire day of Easter to celebrate that the Light of World has burst forth from the grave.
I’m kinda thrilled.
So, that’s what we’re gonna do. I’ll keep you all updated on how it’s going and post some pictures of our magnificent artwork.
What do you do for Lent, if anything?