Here at First Pres we will observe Good Friday with a Tennebrae service, or service of darkness, at 7 p.m. tomorrow night. Through scripture and song we will walk through the crucifixion and experience the world (at least our immediate world) get darker. The service will end in darkness. It is moving and powerful and disturbing and, as I have mentioned more than once, not for small children.
So how do we share the Easter story with our younger children? In our church’s neighborhood, there was a great deal of anger last year when a church outside of the neighborhood came in, hosted an Easter Egg Hunt and then proceeded to use a very graphic set of Resurrection Eggs to share the story of Easter. Many of the parents didn’t even know a church had sponsored the hunt, much less that their children were going to hear the story of a gruesome execution complete with the nails pounded in to his hands, the sword that pierced his side and the crown of thorns that caused his head to bleed. As much as the crucifixion is a part of the Easter story, the story is disturbing–to people of all ages.
There’s just no way around of sharing the good news of Easter without talking about the death of Christ. There is no new life without death. No empty tomb without the cross.
So what do we tell our kids?
That the one and only all-powerful God loved us so much that God wanted to be like us and sent God’s son, named Jesus, who was just like God and just like us all at the same time. And Jesus taught us and showed us how we should live and how much God loves us. And even when some people didn’t like what he was saying and had him killed, Jesus didn’t stay dead because our God is more powerful than death. And that means we don’t have to be afraid of anything, including death, because no matter what, we get to be with Jesus. And then, of course, we punctuate the whole thing by telling the story of a caterpillar turning in to a butterfly.
On Good Friday, we will not pull any punches. We will hear the whole story of the pain and the suffering that Jesus bore. We will rendered silent and left in the dark.
Though liturgically, Holy Saturday is no day to be hunting eggs and gorging on candy, we’re gonna do it anyway. We will delight in and/or be stressed out by all the kids, and we will make sure that they all know that they are loved by Jesus and by us.
Though it may not be the way everyone observes the days leading up to Easter, this is how we do it. May we, as well as those who choose to travel differently, be blessed by the journey.