**Some of the links below are affiliate links*, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Read my full disclosure here.**
Celebrating Lent–those 40 days from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday–is a new rhythm for me. I really didn’t know about this practice until college when some of the other girls in my dorm talked about what they were giving up for those forty days.
The purpose of Lent is to intentionally set our minds on Jesus and remember his suffering and sacrifice on the cross. For many, it is a season of fasting, usually from food or something else that takes up a lot of space in our lives, so that more space can be made for Jesus.
This is the first year I’m actually stepping into the practice of observing Lent. I’m excited and a little apprehensive, but mostly eager to press into Jesus a little bit more.
In honor of the beginning of the Lenten season, I’ve asked my friend Rachel Schmoyer to share some ideas about how to focus on Jesus during this season. Rachel and I met in an online blogging group, and each Monday as the group posted links to recent blog posts, I found myself clicking almost every week on Rachel’s posts. She writes insightful and practical posts about how to understand and live out God’s story, even the hard parts.
If Lent is new for you, try out one of Rachel’s ideas this year and take some time to focus your mind and heart on Jesus.
I owe my life to Christ for His death and resurrection. Without it, I would be lost in my sin and suffering the consequences in my everyday life. That’s why I want to make much of Jesus leading up to Easter time during the Lenten season.
Here are six family-friendly ways that I use to focus on Christ during Lent and Easter.
1. Devotional reading focused on Jesus’ death and resurrection. Each year I try to pick a different short devotional book or reading to focus on Jesus’ sacrifice both for myself and to share with my family. This year I am reading The Case for Easter: A Journalist Investigates the Evidence for the Resurrection* by Lee Strobel.
This short book is in my purse so I can read it as I go. The first chapter is the author’s interview of a medical doctor who describes the depth of the physical pain and agony Jesus suffered from the garden to the cross. It’s heart-breaking. A good reminder of the extent of Jesus’ self-less love. As I am reading, I am marking parts to share with my whole family during dinner time. We don’t do formal devotions as a family, but whenever I come across something I want to share I just say, “I read something really neat that I want to share with you and hear your opinion about.” My kids’ ears perk up. All my kids, ages 9-14, love to offer their feedback and opinion on absolutely anything so this is good motivation to listen to what I have to share.
2. Focused Bible Reading. Leading up to Easter, I choose a Bible reading plan that is focused on Jesus’ death and resurrection. This year I created my own and shared it on my blog, Read the Hard Parts. It’s called Hallelujah! Passover and Praise. The Bible reading plan traces the celebration of Passover throughout the Bible and includes the elements of praise that are given in response to encountering Jesus, the Lamb that was slain. You can download and print it here. No email required.
3. Celebrating the Passover Seder. The Passover Seder is the traditional way the Jewish people have celebrated the Passover. There is a mix of Scripture and tradition and while the Jewish people do not use it to point to Christ, Jesus did when He ate the Last Supper with His disciples. If you can find a group of Messianic Jews near you, see if you can celebrate Passover with them. If not, there are many Haggadah’s out there that you can use available online. The Haggadah is the name of the guidebook used for the celebration. Some are more complicated than others.
I love the Passover Seder with my kids because it is hands-on and uses all the senses. You taste foods that remind us of the bitterness of slavery in Egypt and also our slavery to sin. You sip the cup of wine (grape juice) that reminds us of the blood of the Lamb. You look for the hidden matzah just like Jesus’ followers were missing His body when He was buried in the tomb. I also like the Passover Seder because it connects Jesus’ death and resurrection with the broader story of long-awaited redemption.
4. Resurrection Rolls. This is an especially good activity for toddlers or preschoolers. Even though my kids are 9-14 years old, they still like to do this one for the nostalgia factor since we’ve been doing it since they were young. Take a handful of marshmallows and a tube of crescent roll dough. Hand one of each to each kid and explain the story like this:
“After Jesus died on the cross, His friends were very sad. Can you show me a sad face? One of his friends asked permission to take care of Jesus’ dead body. He took Jesus’ body and wrapped in strips of cloth. Let’s pretend you are Jesus’ friend wrapping Jesus’ body with cloth. (Let each child wrap the marshmallow in the crescent roll dough. Place the rolls on a pan.) After they wrapped his body in strips of cloth, then they put it in a tomb and rolled a heavy stone in front of the tomb so no one could get inside. Let’s pretend that our oven door is a big heavy stone and we are putting Jesus’ body in the tomb. The friends were still very sad. They didn’t think they would see Jesus again. But Jesus had a big surprise for them! When the timer goes off, we will see what the big surprise was! (Set the oven timer. When it goes off, the kids will come running. During the baking time, the marshmallow will melt away and will leave a hollow spot in the roll. Take the rolls out of the oven.) Look! Jesus isn’t here! He is risen! He is not dead anymore! He is alive!”
5. Lent or Easter Song Playlist. You can create a playlist on YouTube or Spotify of songs that focus on Christ’s death and resurrection. Include contemplative songs like O Sacred Head Now Wounded and celebration songs like Christ is Risen by the Gettys.
6. Create an art piece focused on Christ’s death or resurrection. I recently attended a Worship through the Arts service focused on Jesus’ life. After a time of music, the attendees wandered through the fellowship hall which was set up like an art gallery with over 100 pieces of art from all different mediums. One of my favorites pieces was a collage out of old torn up paper Christmas cards made into a manger scene. I was inspired. I’d like to create one this year of Christ’s death or resurrection out of Christmas cards to bring both events together.
7. Attend a Good Friday service. Good Friday is my favorite service of the year. We don’t do anything particularly special. We sing together and listen to God’s word preached. But there is a somberness to the service. There is a sense of loss hanging in the air. We ponder the sadness of our Savior and the consequences of sin. Sin is death and yet not death for me. The heaviness of the Good Friday service prepares me for the freedom and the lightness of the joy of the resurrection.
Community Question: What family-friendly ways do you use the Lenten season to prepare your heart for Easter? Let us know in the comments.
Related: Great Grace: A Story of Restoration
Rachel Schmoyer is a pastor’s wife who is loving her church life. She writes and speaks about finding simple truth in complex parts of Scripture. You can visit her blog at Read the Hard Parts. You can contact her on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest.