Yet we often find it difficult to talk with children about Easter. Oh, not the part about new clothes, changes in the seasons, and the joy of Easter day. What makes it hard to talk with our children about Easter is that we cannot come to Easter without death. And talking with a child about death is no easy task.
Look at how differently we approach Christmas. Talking about a new baby, the joy of Mary and Joseph, the angels, the shepherds, and the wise men is fun. There is a hint of danger, for the Herod plots to kill all the boys in Bethlehem two years old or younger. But we also know that Jesus escapes.
We feel at ease with Christmas. We give gifts, remembering the gifts of the wise men. We sing songs, recalling the familiar words of the scripture. We look forward to Christmas with joy. And we impart that same joy and excitement to our children. Part of our task as adult Christians is to share the Easter story with same ease.
"Why was Jesus Killed?"
Often we have done a good job helping our children see Jesus as a man worthy of love. They learn that Jesus loved people. Jesus taught people about God's love, and he cared for people whom others ignored or ridiculed.
It's really hard to understand how a man we see as good could then be mocked, tortured, and put to death. It is always a shock to be confronted with the events of Holy Week.
Children will have questions about Jesus' death. Particularly older boys and girls will be struck by the injustice. They see Jesus as good, and it won't seem fair for such a man to be beaten and killed. It is important to struggle with our children around this question. We can help children understand that is was not God who put Jesus to death but other people.
The scripture tells us that there were people who did not like Jesus, his teachings, or his actions. These were people who brought about his death. It might even be helpful to look with your child at specific teachings of Jesus. Talk together about why people might not like what Jesus had to say about loving your enemy, trusting God, or dealing with anger.
Resurrection is Surely God's Act
Jesus' death is one part of the Easter story. For us, the Easter message comes in what happens next: new life and resurrection. Pick up your Bible and read again the wonder of the resurrection. What a powerful witness we have in the Gospels to this act of mystery and wonder! If Jesus' death was the act of humans, the resurrection is surely God's act. Through the Easter experience, we make the simple faith statement: Jesus lives.
Talking about the resurrection can be as frightening to adults as talking about death. How in the world do we explain to our children that Jesus was dead and in the grave for three days, then lived? Younger children may not ask the questions of "how" and "why" expecting detailed answers from adults. Older children do want to know how and why.
So how do we deal with the resurrection? Think a minute about this event. Pick up your Bible and reread the account in all four Gospels. After reading the scripture, write down your thoughts and feelings.
Can you explain the resurrection? Probably not. It is a mystery and a wonder -- and a statement of faith. Saying "I believe" does not always mean understanding fully and event or happening.
In talking about this with children, it may be helpful to say, "I wonder about that, too." You may want to share other things that happen in the world that you do not fully understand. Invite your child then to reflect on times when they might not have factually understood an event but felt it to be real.
Preparing for Easter
As you prepare for this Easter event in your family, try the following: