My family and I (Gentiles) were allowed to sit in on a Yom Kippur celebration several years ago. What struck me was the deadness of the event. This event happens once a year and yet there was no celebration. The picture above is not from the holy day that we visited but that’s all there was…dull reading to dull hearts. Now, I don’t know their hearts but I watch people closely as the promises of God were read. The people were non-responsive…just another day. Well, I understand why. So, let me point you to this article in hopes that God might use it break open your heart.
The radio was on and we were cleaning up the house. We turned it to a Christmas station and the song Here Comes Santa Claus was just coming on. We worked and listened and when it came to the part where it says, “Peace on earth will come to all if we just follow the light, so lets give thanks to the Lord above that Santa Claus comes tonight.” We started laughing at the way they had mixed Santa Claus and God; two things that really don’t go together.
But the mixture of these two things didn’t start in the last verse. In the very first verse, in the same line, we hear, “Hang your stockings and say your prayers cause Santa Claus comes tonight!” After listening to the song, you begin to wonder if kids are going to pray to God or Santa (the latter most likely). The Santa Claus story is almost more appealing for kids, isn’t it? Santa brings presents every year, presents that, by the time next Christmas rolls around, have long since been forgotten. Santa will love me whether I’m rich or poor (verse 3). And I don’t mean to say that gifts aren’t good and memorable, they are! But let’s talk about a better gift.
God sent us a gift greater than any Santa could bring: He sent His Son as a baby to be born in a lonely manger in a little town called Bethlehem. It’s sad that such a great God could even be compared to Santa Claus. God sent a gift that would never grow old or be forgotten, a gift that is there for us every morning (not just Christmas morning).
And so to finish, lets remember: 1) Giving gifts is a great thing to do. 2) It’s not loving or kind to say that Santa is coming because he has never come, he’s not coming this year, and he never will come. 3) The story of Saint Nicholas is a wonderful story. He was a person who cared more about others than himself. The way the world has taken this story and turned it into a lie is sad. 4) “Let’s give thanks to the Lord above because he sent his Son to us!”
Part of decorating our house for Resurrection Sunday includes our Resurrection Tree. This is similar to what we do at Christmas with a tree; we put on ornaments that remind us of the biblical account of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. This year we have a small artificial tree, about 2 feet tall. One year we attached small tree limbs to a board so that it resembled a cross. All our ornaments are homemade. The kids have drawn pictures and then attached yarn to them to hang up. You can write Bible verses on index cards, poke a hole in them with a hole punch and hang them up with yarn or ribbon. We’ve used popsicle sticks, foam stickers, whatever we have on hand. My point is that you don’t have to go to the store and buy expensive items for this to be a special decoration. Be creative and really make it your own!
Last year we used this resource from Desiring God as we prepared for Resurrection Sunday. As you will read in the introduction, these can be done weekly beginning at Lent, or daily beginning on the Saturday of Palm Sunday weekend (the weekend before Easter). This article also gives instructions for lighting candles along with the reading if you choose to add that to your devotion time. I highly recommend using the candles because it is a helpful visual aid. As you get closer to Good Friday, there will be less and less candles lit. The last one gets blown out on Friday. None are to be lit on Saturday. Then on Sunday morning, all are relit!
For years it seemed as though the holiday of Easter, or Resurrection Sunday, was upon us without taking much time to prepare. Certainly nothing like we did for Christmas. So, a couple of years ago we tried to be more intentional about celebrating this important holiday. I’d like to share over the next few days some different ideas we have enjoyed and hope to continue as traditions in our home.
One resource that has been helpful is the book, Treasuring God in Our Traditions, by Noel Piper. She includes not only activities for Resurrection Sunday, but also other holidays and ways to make any day special.
We have remained steadfast in our discipline of “Family Friday Night.” It began while we were in seminary because time was very limited and very valuable. So, on Friday night, Dad stopped studying at 5:00 pm and did not start back until Saturday at noon. The Saturday morning was a time my wife could actually have an uninterrupted quiet time (husband, you should add up the amount of time your wife is spending with the kids…she needs a break!). And we are still keeping the Family Night though we are not as busy. That is the history and context of Family Night.
Therefore, we plan each Friday night on Wednesday (or further in advance if we are doing something that needs extra preparation). It usually involves everyone’s input. However, when the Holy Days of old roll around, we incorporate them into our family night. I would like to encourage you to consider using these holidays as a teaching tool for your kids. They are rich with imagery that will help your kids develop categories of theology.
So, we have planned the next several weeks to teach our kids about the Passover, The Day of Atonement, and The Feast of Booths. If you are going to attempt this, check out the material available through Jews for Jesus. They have some excellent resources. You will want to spend some time thinking about this and how Christ is our Passover Lamb before you do this. I hope to post my devotions for the kids as I take the week of our scheduled Passover to lead them in our family worship time each night.
I hope you will be encouraged to use these holy days to point to Christ (and learn yourself) in the following days. Also, don’t think you have to do them on their scheduled dates. It can be overwhelming for someone to do all of them. We have been doing them for a few years now, so it takes time to develop a strategy. You can spread them out or just pick one for the year and focus on it and do it well. May you and your family be blessed!