Floss has suggested that we might like to share ideas about explaining Easter to littl'uns. So here is the letter I sent [names changed to protect the innocent, as they say]
It isn't deep theology. And I have avoided too much stress on the pain of crucifixion. Also the letter doesn't mention the atonement. That is not because I think those issues are unimportant. I think they are crucial parts of the story.[Just noticed that I used the word 'crucial' there - without registering its Latin root!]
However this is a letter to two very small children, and so I wouldn't want to load them down with too much at one go [the letter is quite long enough already] When they are ready they will ask the next questions [If Jesus was so powerful, why did he let them do that to him? etc]
Dear Jack and Joe
Your Mum tells me you are two very clever little boys, and that you have been asking lots of questions about Easter. I have two girls – Liz and Steph. They are much bigger than you, but they used to ask lots of questions too. So here is what I used to say to them…
When you are at school, you have the long holiday each Summer – but also holidays at Christmas and Easter. That is because for Christians, those are two important times when we remember Jesus being born, and dying.
I am sure you know all about Christmas – the baby being born and put in a manger, and the shepherds and the wise men who came to see Mary and Joseph, and baby Jesus. I wonder what you can remember about those Wise Men?
They followed a star as it moved across the sky, and it led them to Bethlehem. When they found the baby, they gave him three VERY STRANGE presents. We usually give new babies USEFUL things, like bibs and bootees and teddy bears to cuddle. They gave him some gold, some frankincense and some myrrh.
Gold is precious metal, used for wedding rings and kings crowns.
Frankincense is a bit like a scented candle that people burn – often when they are praying, and the smoke is a sign their prayers are rising to God
Myrrh is another thing which smells beautiful, like best perfume. People would use this when someone died [we put flowers on graves now, but in hot countries, fresh flowers wouldn’t last long. Myrrh kept making a beautiful perfume for a long time]
Why ever did they give a BABY presents like that do you think? Well, they were very clever men, and each present meant something.
The gold meant they thought Jesus was someone special and powerful, like a King.
The frankincense meant they thought Jesus would help people to understand about God
The myrrh meant they thought he would have pain and sadness, and then die.
Well, the men left the presents with Mary, and went home. And Jesus grew up. And he was such a wonderful person
He was so special, and powerful
When they had parties, he made wine so they could celebrate
When they were sick, he made them better
When they were frightened by thunderstorms, he made the weather calm down.
Wow! What a special person, and what a great friend to have!
And as well as DOING all those great things, Jesus was the best storyteller ever. He told lots of fantastic stories – funny ones, sad ones, ones to make you think – and all of them helped people to understand more about God and how much God loved them.
Especially Jesus loved little children and ALWAYS made time to talk to them.
He said lots of good things. One day, he said that bad people might kill him, but if that happened, he would not stay dead. “Stop talking like that!” his friend Peter said “We don’t want to think about horrid things!” and they didn’t understand what Jesus meant.
But Jesus did not like it when people were cruel. And especially he was not pleased with anybody who stopped other people from praying to God. One day he stepped into the Temple, where people went when they wanted to talk to God. He found that lots of market traders had set up stalls and were selling all sorts of things, and shouting about their bargains. “Stop this!” he shouted “You have taken God’s special place and made it into a Poundshop!”
That made the important people who organised the Temple very angry! They said “JESUS makes it too easy. WE are the people who know about God. The ORDINARY people ought to come to US. If they PAY us, we could say prayers to God in a proper, POSH voice. Jesus tells them they can talk to God for themselves. We have all sorts of rules to obey – Jesus says God loves them even when they break the rules. He is TOO popular. We must get rid of him!”
And that is what they did – one Thursday night, when Jesus was praying quietly in a garden, they took soldiers and captured him and the next day [Friday] they hit him and hurt him and finally killed him, by hanging him on a cross.
His friends were very sad, and they took his body down from the cross. It was a hot country and the ground was too hard to dig a grave, so they put the body of Jesus in a cave in another garden, and rolled a HUGE stone in front of it, so nobody could get in.
All day Saturday, Jesus’ friends felt so miserable. Then one of them said “Let us get some of that lovely myrrh perfume, and take it to the cave.” So next morning, just as the sun rose, they set off really early to the cave.
On the way, one of the girls got worried “How will we move the big stone? We aren’t strong enough!” she said. But when they got there, the big stone was already rolled away.
They were a bit scared them, but one of them bravely looked inside the cave. Jesus’ body was not there! ”Where is he?” she shouted. And then they saw a man in a white robe sitting quietly in the corner. It was an angel – one of God’s special messengers.
“He isn’t here – he is alive again like he promised” said the angel. “Go home and wait for him”
And the friends of Jesus did that – but they were still confused and scared “What if those soldiers come and kill us, because we were his friends?” they said, and locked the door. But then Jesus was there, in the room with them.
“I told you I would come alive again” he said. And he hugged them, and talked to them, and even had a breakfast of barbecued fish, on the beach, with them. They could see he really was there and really alive and they had not imagined it.
One of his friends said “Stay with us forever, Jesus” – but Jesus explained that it could not be like that.
He could only be in one place at one time [when your Mum is in the kitchen with Jack, she cannot be in the garden with Joe at the same time, can she?]
Jesus said he was going to go back to God in Heaven. “If I go back, I will send my Holy Spirit, and he will be with each one of you, wherever you are – and he will help you, and make you feel brave and strong. I am going back to Heaven, and I am going to prepare a special place for you there” And a few days later, that is just what he did.
Christians believe that Jesus is in Heaven with God, but his Spirit [who we cannot see] is with us and helps us every day. He helps us to be brave when we are scared, he makes us laugh when we are happy, and he loves us especially when we are sad.
And every year, Christians celebrate Christmas, and remember Jesus being born as a baby. We give each other presents just like the wise men gave baby Jesus presents. Those old men WERE very clever weren’t they? Jesus WAS special, he DID help people get closer to God, and he DID suffer a sad death.
But we also remember Easter every year – and even though killing Jesus was the most cruel thing anyone could do, we call the day GOOD Friday because through it God made good things happen. Easter Sunday reminds us each year that Jesus didn’t STAY dead, and if we love Him, one day we will go to Heaven and live with him forever. Heaven is a place where nobody is sad, or in pain, or scared or lonely, a place full of God and his love. And some of those good things are ours to enjoy now – we can be happy, and surrounded by God’s love wherever we are. To remind ourselves of that new and special life, we have Easter Eggs [an empty egg reminds us the cave was empty, and an egg reminds us of the new life of the little chick] and sometimes we eat Hot Cross Buns, to remember the cross of Jesus.
Well, this has been a VERY long letter, but I hope it has helped answer some of your questions. I am sure if you have some more, Mummy will tell me. God bless you and all your family
Lots of love - Angela