How Do I Explain Easter to My Child?

April 3rd, 2012
by mtsofan

A good starting point is to realize that Easter is bigger than any of us ever fully understand so we do not have to know all the answers. No one ever does. Easter is new life, an empty tomb, forgiveness, resurrection, and more. That is not something to understand. It is a reality we have to grow into. The truth is that we understand different aspects of Easter better at different tin1es of our lives.

Adults respond enthusiastically to the Easter claim and promise of victory over death because adults understand the finality of death and fear death. Children, however, have a hard time grasping the reality, especially the finality, of death. Even after attending Grandpa's funeral, a young child will often ask, at unexpected times, when Grandpa will be visiting. This natural inability to grasp the finality of death is supported by fairy tale princesses who awake after "sleeping" for years and cartoon characters who, flattened by steamrollers, peel themselves off the road. Given all this, it's not surprising that children can't get too excited by victory over death.

Many books and people try to get around this by focusing on new life, paying attention to eggs, bulbs, and butterflies as new life symbols. While children are vaguely interested in these symbols, "new life" strikes few of them (for whom all of life is "new") as particularly significant or exciting.

Instead, for younger children, the empty tomb is the ultimate victory of the good guys (God/Jesus) over the bad guys (Judas, the priests, Pilate, the soldiers). On Good Friday the bad guys thought they had won. They killed Jesus and sealed his body into a guarded tomb. On Easter morning God/Jesus blasted right out of that tomb and proved once and for all that God is more powerful than even the worst evil the worst bad guys can inflict. The natural response to such a victory is to yell "Hooray for God and Jesus!" and to celebrate belonging to God who is the most powerful power there is in the universe!

To older elementary children, who are focused on friendships and have clear expectations of "best friends," the most significant resurrection story is the story of Peter's breakfast conversation with Jesus (see John 21:1-19). Peter had been Jesus' best friend. He had promised to stick with Jesus no matter what. And he had been caught three times on the same night pretending he did not even know Jesus. As a betrayed ''best friend," Jesus would have been justified in ignoring or punishing Peter for his denials. But Jesus did not. For Peter, the resurrection happened when Jesus forgave him, welcomed him back as a friend, and put him to work building God's Kingdom. For older children, Easter holds the promise that Jesus will forgive them and welcome them back when/if they betray their friendship with him. Such Easter forgiveness is worth celebrating!

And remember the starting point-Easter is bigger than we can understand. We don't have to know all the answers. We probably do most harm when we fail to talk with our children about our Easter faith out of fear that we will not get it right.

excerpt from: Sharing the Easter Faith with Children by Carolyn C. Brown. Copyright 2006 by Abingdon Press. Used with permission. Order information below.

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