I did not grow up in a home that followed the liturgical Church year very closely. As an adult, and as a parent, I’ve come to appreciate the church calendar much more. Lent, for me, was a season quickly forgotten after the passing of Ash Wednesday. But, how much more joyful Easter can be after the 40 days of Lent!
In our modern world, Christmas has become the holiday associated with gift-giving. But at Easter, we receive the greatest gift of all: Christ’s willing sacrifice on the cross. While Easter itself is a joyful celebration, the forty days of Lent that precede it are most often associated with self-sacrifice and denial. It is a time for us to live simply and sacrificially as a way to remember the ultimate sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Lent also is a time to think about the gift of Jesus, and how we can demonstrate his love for us to others. There are many ways to remember and contemplate the temptation of Jesus in the desert and His ultimate sacrifice on the cross.
As a family with young children, I’m trying to keep our Lent celebrations simple this year. Here are a few ideas of how to make Lent meaningful for your family:
One of the easiest things to do is read stories with our kids. Gospel accounts of Jesus’ temptation in the desert are one focus for us in our daily devotions. Our children (five years old and under) really like The Beginner’s Bible. Some other great readings are
Devotionals: My children may still be too young for this, but I was excited to discover Good Dirt: Lent, Holy Week, and Eastertide (Vol. 2). This provides a daily devotion for your family, wherein you “Till” (prayer), “Plant” (scripture reading), “Water” (related activity), and “Weed” (reflection questions) your garden of spiritual formation. It is simple, straightforward, and easy to do over dinner together.
Story books: The Road to Easter Day by Jan Godfrey and Marcin Piwowarski. This story is about Ben, a little boy who witnesses Jesus’ journey to the cross, from the start of his ministry to his time in the desert and the final days of his life before his crucifixion and resurrection.
The Easter Story by Brian Wildsmith. The Easter story is told from the perspective of a little donkey that carries Jesus and then witnesses his death and resurrection. The text is simple, and the illustrations are just beautiful.
The Story of Easter, by Aileen Fisher, narrates the story of Easter itself as the Resurrection and then continues to describe the history of Easter traditions, like Easter egg decorating and the Easter bunny.
The Garden, The Curtain, and The Cross, Carl Laferton and illustrated by Catalina Echeverri, takes children on a journey from the garden of Eden to God's perfect new creation. Through an engaging Bible overview, children will discover that 'because of our sin, we can't go in' but because of Jesus' victory on the cross, an even better garden awaits us.
As a family, consider sacrificing something for Lent. This practice can really help your kids remember and consider Christ’s temptation in the desert and His sacrifice on the cross. Something simple like sweets can be given up for the whole of Lent, while other sacrifices can be made just one day a week, such as a “screen free” day. You could also plan a meatless meal one day a week, and have your children help prepare it.
Make pretzels with your young ones. Pretzels originated as a Lenten snack -- in the medieval period, eggs, milk, and fat were prohibited during Lent, leaving water, flour, and salt. Monks developed pretzels in the early middle ages, designing them to look like arms crossed and placed on shoulders in prayer. Check out this recipe for soft pretzels here: https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/24272/buttery-soft-pretzels/
Give sacrificially for 40 days. Some examples of how to do this in a tangible, regular way with your kids include:
setting up a container for loose and spare change that can be donated to charity at the end of Lent;
having a pantry box and put one food item in it every day, to be given to a food bank after Easter;
decluttering and simplifying by challenging yourself (and your children) to fill up a bag (any size) every day – 40 bags over the course of 40 days – to give away, whether it be clothes, toys, etc.
Pray for others! Fill a mason jar with popsicles sticks labeled with simple prayer prompts. Each night before bed, encourage your little ones to pull a stick and pray for the prompt. Some prayer suggestions can include:
The Great Commission
Serve one another! My family likes to wash each other’s feet on “Maundy Thursday,” the Thursday before Good Friday. This practice is really memorable for our kids, we have found. They think it is special, and provides a very tangible way for them to relate to the story of Christ and His disciples.
Your church or family may have special Lenten activities, especially during Holy Week, as well. What are some of your family’s Lent traditions? In what ways might you and yours contemplate this season, reflecting on the Cross and His resurrection, to further shape your family’s likeness in Christ in new ways?
Join Donum Dei Classical Academy! This year, Donum Dei has initiated a 24/7 Prayer Team to intercede for San Francisco, her churches and families, and for every aspect of the development of Donum Dei Classical Academy from Tuesday, March 12th through Saturday, April 20th. We will stand firm for 40 days and nights. On Sunday, April 21st, we will rest and be still (Ps. 46:10).
I have posted watchmen on your walls, Jerusalem; they will never be silent day or night. You who call on the Lord, give yourselves no rest, and give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth. The Lord has sworn by his right hand and by his mighty arm: “Never again will I give your grain as food for your enemies, and never again will foreigners drink the new wine for which you have toiled; but those who harvest it will eat it and praise the Lord, and those who gather the grapes will drink it in the courts of my sanctuary.” Pass through, pass through the gates! Prepare the way for the people. Build up, build up the highway! Remove the stones. Raise a banner for the nations. The Lord has made proclamation to the ends of the earth: “Say to Daughter Zion, ‘See, your Savior comes! See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him.’ ” They will be called the Holy People, the Redeemed of the Lord; and you will be called Sought After, the City No Longer Deserted. Isaiah 62:6-12