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Sunday, March 18, 2012

A Christ-Centered Easter

Can you believe Easter is just around the corner?  Spring seems to have sneaked up on me.  (Private rant here:  I hate the word "to sneak!"  I swear it *should* be 'Spring seems to have *snuck* up on me.'  But, alas, it's not; and it bugs me to no end!!!)  :O)  As the Easter decorations line the shelves of the stores my thoughts have been turned to the beauty of spring and the sacred holiday that comes with the opening of the new season - Easter.  Spring brings new life and renewal.  While baby bunnies and chicks are darling, they are NOT what Easter is about - at all.  Easter is as sacred as Christmas, or it should be anyway.  During Christmastime we celebrate the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ and at Easter we celebrate his triumph over death - His Resurrection!  What a glorious day!

We found last year, on recommendation of some dear friends of ours, a wonderful resource for families to keep the sacred perspective of this glorious day of celebration.  It is a small book entitled "A Christ-Centered Easter: Day-By-Day Activities to Celebrate Easter Week" by Janet and Joe Hales.  It's just as it sounds: a book that takes you day by day through the week of Easter with simple activities, games, stories, and scriptures to complete each day for the week.

I always read the table of contents before a book to get a good feel for what it contains.  So here is what the table of contents looks like:

Introduction: How to Use This Book
Part 1: Easter Week, Day by Day
Day 1--Palm Sunday
Jesus' Triumphal Entry
Day 2--Monday
Cleansing the Temple
Day 3--Tuesday
Parables and Teachings
Day 4--Wednesday
Rest in Bethany
Day 5--Thursday
The Last Supper and Jesus' Prayer and Agony in Gethsemane
Day 6--Friday
Jesus' Trial and Crucifixion
Day 7--Saturday
The Jewish Sabbath
Day 8--Easter Sunday
Jesus' Resurrection and Appearances
Part 2: Supplementary Material and Activity Helps
Sacred Music and Hymns
Stories with a Message
The Jewish Sabbath
Easter Activities and Plays 
A Passover Celebration and Jerusalem Dinner
A Parallel Account of the Gospels
Useful Reference Materials for Children, Youth, and Adults

 I wish to share with you one of my favorite activities of the book.  From pg. 26-28:
The Easter Story in Eggs

Preparatory Work
1.  Obtain twelve plastic eggs and number them with a permanent marker from one to twelve.  (Put the eggs in an empty egg carton for easy storage.)
2.  Photocopy and cut out the scripture passages that follow.
3.  Gather the indicated visual aids.
4.  Place each scripture strip and its corresponding visual aid into the numbered eggs.

Your family can do this activity in several ways:
  • "Serve" the eggs with dinner at each place setting and open the eggs in sequential order during the meal.
  • Play "scrambled eggs."  Throw the scriptures, visual aids, and eggs in a bag.  As each is drawn out, separately match the visual aids with the scriptures in sequence, or match the scriptures with the visual aids and eggs.  End the activity by reading each scripture in order.
  • Take turns opening each egg in sequence and reading the enclosed scripture.
  • (This one is not listed in the book, but is my favorite way to "play" this game.  We hide the eggs and hunt for them.  This can be in combination with a regular egg-hunt with real hard-boiled colored eggs and/or candy-/toy-filled plastic eggs or a special "Sunday Hunt" with only this particular dozen eggs.  Once they've all been found, take turns reading/discussing the scriptures in order.  Whoever has egg one goes first, and so on.  If you do this in conjunction with "regular" Easter eggs, be sure to instruct the children to be on the look-out for the "special" eggs with numbers on them.  Also be sure they don't just begin opening and dumping the contents of their eggs on the floor at the end of the hunt.  Have the wait until the "special" eggs have all been read, then they can see what their other treasures are.  If you choose to do a special "Sunday Hunt" it will eliminate the candy distraction from the sacred story you are trying to tell.  It will depend on your family how this will work best for you.)
1.  "Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests, and said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you?  And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver.  And from that time he sought opportunity to betray him" (Matthew 26:14-16).

2.  "And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.  And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins" (Matthew 26:26-28).

3.  "Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder.  And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. ... And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. ... He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done. ... And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words" (Matthew 26:36-37, 39, 42, 44). 

4.  "When the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death: And when they had bound him, they led him away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor" (Matthew 27:1-2).

5.  "Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?  They all say unto him, Let him be crucified.  And the governor said, Why, what evil hath he done?  But they cried out the more, saying, Let him be crucified.  When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it" (Matthew 27:22-24).

6.  "And the soldiers led him away into the hall, called Praetorium; and they call together the whole band.  And they clothed him with purple, and platted a crown of thorns, and put it about his head, and began to salute him, Hail, King of the Jews!  And they smote him on the head with a reed, and did spit upon him, and bowing their knees worshipped him" (Mark 15:16-19).

7.  "And as they led him away, the laid hold upon one Simon, a Cyrenian, coming out of the country, and on him they laid the cross, that he might bear it after Jesus.  And there followed him a great company of people, and of women, which also bewailed and lamented him. ... And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left" (Luke 23:26-27, 33).

8.  "Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.  And they parted his raiment, and cast lots" (Luke 23:34).

9.  "Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.  And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent. ... Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God" (Matthew 27:50-51, 54).

10.  "And, behold, there was a man named Joseph, a counsellor; and he was a good man, and a just: (The same had not consented to the counsel and deed of them;) he was of Arimathaea, a city of the Jews: who also himself waited for the kingdom of God.  This man went unto Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus.  And he took it down, and wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a sepulchre that was hewn in stone, wherein never man before was laid."  "And laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed" (Luke 23:50-53; Matthew 27:60).

11.  "And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him.  And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun.  And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre?  (Mark 16:1-4).

12.  "And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted.  And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: his is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him" (Mark 16:5-6).

Visual Aids
1.  Three dimes
2.  A small cracker or piece of bread
3.  A sacrament cup
4.  A length of twine
5.  A piece of soap
6.  A swatch of purple cloth
7.  A nail
8.  Two toothpicks (to represent casting lots)
9.  A bag of crushed rocks and potting soil
10.  Strips of white cloth
11.  Spices tied in a small piece of cloth
12.  Leave this egg empty

Now, I sometimes change the scriptures used in the eggs slightly.  I use the Bible Dictionary at the end of my Bible.  In it is listed a Harmony of the Gospels, where the books of the Gospel (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) are laid out side-by-side, verse-by-verse.  I find the verses used in the original list and find which ones I like best.  Some versions (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) have different details than others.  I simply choose the ones I feel best tell the story and supplement those for the ones listed.

These pre-made Easter Story in Eggs sets make wonderful Easter gifts for friends, family, Primary class kids, Relief Society sisters, Visiting Teaching sisters or Home Teaching families, etc.  Last year we even gave one to our Muslim landlord with a special picture of Jesus emerging from the empty tomb and a copy of The Living Christ.

I hope this will give you some ideas for having a Christ-centered Easter.  :O)  Find the book "A Christ-Centered Easter" at your local library or purchase a copy from or your local Deseret Book (if you live in Utah) and share what your favorite Easter activity is.  What special Easter traditions do you already celebrate with your family?

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