Moose has really been interested in when each of the special days in Lent are going to happen, so in addition to our Jesus Tree, I decided to make a calendar where he can see when all of the special days occur:
We’re marking the current day with the purple cross. All of the Sundays are marked, as well as dates like St. Patrick’s Day, the Annunciation, and, of course, the days of Holy Week.
I’m sure it would look better if we had a color printer, but for now, this will do. I used tape on the movable dates, so we’ll be able to use this calendar for years to come!
Yesterday I was a guest on KFUO’s Faith ‘n’ Family to discuss ideas for observing Lent in the home, including our favorite activity, the Jesus Tree. If you’re wondering what our observances look like, or are looking for ideas to use in your own home, please take some time to listen…hopefully, I made sense, and didn’t sound as nervous as I felt!
I have long been frustrated in trying to find appropriate activities for Lent and Holy Week, because while it’s easy to find Easter activities Lent-only activities are a bit tougher, and I refuse to rush into Easter before Easter. When I saw this Paschal Candle kit, I realized that it’s the perfect activity for Holy Saturday, as many churches dedicate their new Paschal Candles at the Great Vigil of Easter on Holy Saturday night.
The children had a lot of fun rolling the sheets of beeswax to make the candle, and then decorating it with the included gold cord, decals and gems. I think the detail on it is quite pretty:
Ryan dedicated it in a way very similar to how is done at church:
Christ Jesus, the same yesterday, today, and forever, the beginning and the ending, the Alpha and the Omega.
His are time and eternity, His are the glory and dominion, now and forever.
By His wounds we have healing both now and forever. Amen.
It was ready for us to light when we got home from church tonight, when Ryan finished the dedication:
May the light of Christ, who is risen in glory from the dead, scatter all the darkness of our hearts and mind.
We’ll light it again tomorrow night at dinner, and probably also on Pentecost. I think after that, I’m going to save it, because I’m especially looking forward to using it as the centerpiece of our Advent wreath this fall. I’m pretty sure that this will become a new yearly tradition!
Today is Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of the forty-day season of Lent. Many churches, as part of their Ash Wednesday services, practice the imposition of ashes, in which the sign of the cross is made upon the heads of the faithful, as a reminder that we “are dust, and to dust we shall return.” The ashes are often the product of burning the palm branches from the previous year’s observance of Palm Sunday. The imposition of ashes is not a requirement, but rather a nice, visible reminder of the frailty of our lives, and Christ’s sacrifice for us. This begins the “purple season;” however, like Good Friday, Ash Wednesday can also be observed with simple black banners and paraments in the church.
From the Treasury of Daily Prayer:
During the forty days of Lent, God’s baptized people cleanse their hearts through the discipline of Lent: repentance, prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Lent is a time in which God’s people prepare with joy for the Paschal Feast (Easter). It is a time in which God renews His people’s zeal in faith and life. It is a time in which we pray that we may be given the fulness of grace that belongs to the children of God.
Here is our completed tree, with all forty-eight symbols attached, (you can definitely tell what parts of the tree were easier for the children to reach!). I’m going to leave it up for as much of the Easter season as possible, but the tape on the backs of a lot of the symbols is starting to wear out, so if the symbols keep falling off, I’m going to have to put it away. Next year, I may get some spray adhesive–according to the instructions that came with the kit, you can lightly spray the back of the symbol before placing it to help it stick, but it’s not permanent. I am a little worried about it pulling up the fibers of the banner too much, but we’ll have to see, because tape didn’t really cut it, especially for some of the heavier symbols.
I know I’ve said it before, but this was a fantastic activity. I really liked the suggestion in the kit to read out of a standard Bible in the morning, and a children’s Bible in the evening. While I don’t think a simpler version of the story was always necessary, hearing the story multiple times, and in different ways really makes it “stick,” and is good for discussion. Same logic applies to reading the story from multiple Gospels whenever possible–it may be repetitive, but you also pick up extra details you might otherwise have missed if you stuck with only one Gospel reading. I’m going to use this pattern of morning Bible readings and evening children’s Bible readings with our Jesse Tree next Advent, as well–I don’t know why that didn’t occur to me before, but I’m glad I have the idea now!
I’m not going to lie–putting together this project was a huge commitment. Between cutting and assembling the banner and all of the symbols, and creating a reading schedule for the children’s Bible readings, I probably put between 20 and 30 hours into creating this resource–and that’s with having patterns for all of the symbols, and the Bible readings prepared for me! It was well worth it, however, because of how much we enjoyed it and learned from it, (yes, even I learned some new things as we went through the Scripture readings!), and knowing that I’ll be able to use it for years to come really puts into perspective how worthwhile the effort put into it was.
And so we’ve come to the end of our Jesus Tree readings and symbols. Actually, we should have been done yesterday, but I wasn’t ready to stop, and Easter Monday seemed worthy of a reading, so I added the story of Jesus appearing to His disciples in the locked room, and then later to “Doubting Thomas,” found in John 20:19-29.
This has been a great addition to our Lenten observances. I encourage you to find something similar next year, whether it’s purchased from a kit, or made on your own. It’s a great opportunity to spend time together as a family, learning more about the life of Jesus, and what He came to do!
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
Today’s readings were, of course, about the Resurrection. They were found in all four Gospels: Matthew 28:1-10; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-12; and John 20:1-18. To be honest, between the Easter Vigil last night and the Sunrise and Festival services this morning, we had heard most of these selections, so for the Jesus Tree, I just cut to the chase, and read from The Story Bible. I did this partly because we had just heard these readings, and partly to make time for two additional readings I wanted to get to today–the Emmaus Road passage found in Luke 24:13-35, which takes place on Easter evening, and The Very First Easter by Paul Maier, an excellent book which tells the whole Passion story, and concludes with the Ascension.
Only one more day of the Jesus Tree left, and only because I created an extra symbol to go with a reading for Easter Monday. I can’t believe how much we’re all going to miss this part of our day, but at least we can look forward to doing it again next year!
Today’s readings focused on the accounts of the burial of Jesus, found in all four Gospels: Matthew 27:57-61; Mark 23:50-56; Luke 23:50-56; and John 19:38-42. I also added Matthew 27:62-66, which details how the chief priests and Pharisees went to Pilate to ask for a guard to be placed at the tomb. This is the only passage in Scripture that occurs on Holy Saturday, and even though it’s not directly part of the burial story, I felt that it was important to include it since today is Holy Saturday.
Today’s readings were, as you might expect, about the crucifixion. Again, I chose to read the accounts from all four Gospels: Matthew 27:32-56; Mark 15:21-41; Luke 23:26-49; and John 19:16b-30. I wanted to make sure we covered all of Jesus’s last words, and all of the things that happened surrounding His death, so I added in the Luke reading, which wasn’t originally scheduled.
Today’s readings came from only two Gospels: Matthew 27:24-26; and John 19:4-16. These readings focused on Pilate presenting Jesus to the Jews, in a half-hearted attempt to secure His release. In the end, of course, Pilate folded to pressure from the crowd, and delivered Jesus over to them to be crucified. The symbol represents Jesus as He was presented to the crowd, being mocked as a king, with a crown of thorns and a royal robe.
We could have read the account of Pilate in both Mark and Luke, as well, but I found the readings to be similar enough that I thought the story was covered well in Matthew and John. I do think that reading more of the context around these passages could be beneficial, especially the parts where Jesus is shipped between Herod and Pilate, and they try to figure out just what they should do, and who should make the decision. That really drives hom the point that no one with any authority really wanted to get in the middle of this situation, and yet, in the end, someone had to make a decision with an authoritative voice.