Countdown to Easter

Forty ways to celebrate the greatest event in history

Lent is the 40 days, not counting Sundays, before Easter. These Scripture readings, fun activities, discussion points and hymns to read or sing will help your family focus on the most pivotal Christian truth: Christ died and rose to save us from sin!

  1. Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, gets its name from an ancient tradition of throwing ashes on one's head to demonstrate sorrow for sins. Explain to your child that Lent is not a time to be gloomy, but a time to consider how much we need the salvation that Christ secured for us. If your church doesn't have an Ash Wednesday service, consider taking an older child to visit another church.

  2. Buy an Easter lily for your home. The lily symbolizes new life because something so strikingly fragrant and beautiful grows from a lifeless-looking bulb.

  3. Paint a spring mural. Put up a wall-sized piece of paper, tape newspaper to the floor, dress your child in old clothes and get out the paints! Even if it's not greening up outside, you can start springtime indoors.

  4. Take a "new life walk" outdoors, searching out tiny shoots, sprouting buds on trees and eggs in birds' nests.

  5. The season of Lent alternates times of remembering Christ's suffering with celebrating the Resurrection (every Sunday during the season). Adopt a European tradition and collect bells you have around the house (jingle bells from Christmas?) to ring on the Sundays of Lent.

  6. Lent is traditionally a season for "giving up" as a symbolic, outward act of identifying with Christ's suffering. Your child may want to choose something to "sacrifice" for the 40 days of Lent?trips to McDonald's, after-school TV, chocolate.

  7. Explain the word redemption, using the dictionary definition as well as the Christian doctrine (hints: "recovering ownership" and "restoring value=").

  8. Sing together the hymn "O Sacred Head":

    "O Sacred Head once wounded,
    with grief and pain weighed down,
    how scornfully surrounded
    with thorns Thine only crown!

    How pale Thou are with anguish,
    with sore abuse and scorn!
    How does that visage languish,
    which once was bright as morn."

  9. Bring springtime indoors. Buy potted crocuses, daffodils or tulips for your home.

  10. Help your child understand why Jesus was called "the Lamb of God" (his role as the unblemished sacrifice: Ex. 12:21-24; John 1:29; 1 Cor. 5:7-8). With your child, make a lamb. Glue cotton balls to a small paper plate, then add pink and black construction-paper eyes, ears, muzzle, nose and hooves.

  11. Read or summarize Exodus 12:1-42 to give an older child a context for the Passover celebration that Jesus observed the last week before his death. Explain Christ's death as the ultimate sacrifice for sin and discuss the significance of God giving up his firstborn Son.

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