How Do I Explain Easter to My Children?
I don't know how to explain Easter to my children—Penny, 5, and William, 2. I've tried two approaches so far. I've talked about it directly: "Some people killed Jesus and he died and God made him alive again."
When I said that, William asked, "What does died mean?" I tried to explain death as something that takes people away forever. Penny asked, "Where is Jesus now?" and when I said, "Jesus is in heaven and all around us," she responded, "But where is Jesus now?"
Then Penny went to Sunday school last week, where her teachers decided to reenact the Passion of Jesus. I was sitting in church when, halfway through the sermon, one of the teachers brought Penny to me. She sat by my side, coloring, for the rest of the service. Her teacher later explained that when Penny had seen Jesus nailed to the cross, she stood up to leave.
I asked Penny later, "What happened in Sunday school? Did you learn something about Jesus?"
Without looking at me she said, "He died. I needed to see you, Mom."
"Do you know what happened when he died?"
"I don't want to talk about it."
The direct route didn't get us far.
Then there's the indirect approach. Another time this Lenten season, I asked William, "Do you know what Easter is all about?"
His eyes lit up the way they do when he knows the answer to a question: "Bunnies!"
"Well," I said, "kind of."
I understood his confusion. He came home from preschool with Easter eggs. A man at our local coffee shop gave him a chocolate bunny. And we have an "Easter tree" on our kitchen table, with forsythia in bloom and painted wooden eggs dangling from the branches. So, I thought, maybe I could explain Easter using the springtime symbols, and we could talk about death and rebirth, about caterpillars and butterflies or chicks hatching or crocuses in bloom.
But the analogies fall apart so quickly. First, nothing in the natural world is brought from death to life. What's dead stays dead. Furthermore, suggesting that the Cross and the Empty Tomb are just like the daffodils threatens to cheapen our faith and hope in Christ.
We didn't have this trouble with Christmas. Although we haven't tried to explain the Virgin Birth yet, our kids have the story down. They know about babies being born, and they're happy to take our word for it that God wanted to live with us to heal us and care for us and teach us and forgive us. The birth story was easy.
One of the reasons I have trouble explaining Easter to my children is that I have trouble explaining it to myself. Even the New Testament writers couldn't find adequate words or images to explain what happened that weekend in Jerusalem. While the facts remain easy—Jesus died on the cross, and God raised him from the dead—understanding the significance of those facts remains a challenge.
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