When my kids grow up and reflect on their childhood, I sure hope that Holy Week and Easter stands out to them. I want them to unrelentingly talk their future spouses into carrying on the traditions of crawling on the floor with donkey ears and washing each others' feet. I want them to be so giddy excited to show their own children what Easter is truly about. I want them to understand the immense gravity of Good Friday juxtaposed with the exuberant joy of Resurrection Sunday that it makes their eyes sting with tears and their hair stand up on their arms in goosebumps. I want it to mean something to them, where their whole year will be looking forward to Easter again.
And truthfully, I don't think the Easter Bunny is enough to get the job done. I don't think an egg hunt or buying pretty dresses or baskets of goodies are enough. I don't think a sunrise service or special music is enough. Or a Sunday ham. And, dude, juicy hams and coordinating family outfits are pretty awesome things. We plan on having all of these things next Sunday. But they're not enough.
And it also got my own mind thinking about Palm Sunday. How it must have felt for Jesus to look into the smiling eyes of those laying out their own cloaks in front of Him, knowing that He was just days away from His own death. From facing those exact same people with faces turned to grimacing shouts for His blood to be spilled. Was He excited to enter into Jerusalem with such pomp and circumstance? Or was He sad that His people didn't understand the type of Kingdom for which He was King? What did His face look like as He was riding in on that donkey?
So from last year's Palm Sunday skit birthed the vision of making Holy Week - and really the entire Lenten season - an exciting thing for our children. Replete with the paradox of sadness and joy mixed together in the single greatest event in human history. While our friends in the States will be celebrating Easter today, we are now following the Orthodox Church calendar in Eastern Europe, which this year is one week behind the Catholic-based calendar utilized by Protestants in the West. Therefore, today is the day we're celebrating Palm Sunday.
First, the kids always get to color during church once the sermon begins. So this week we printed this picture for them to color. During lunchtime devotion we read the Palm Sunday story from our Jesus is Calling children's Bible book, and we listened to Hillsong United's Hosanna song that I often sing to them at bedtime. After we took our naps, some of our missionary friends from our church here in Romania came over to take part in our celebration. Our pastor, Maurice, took the lead in making the donkey ears while the rest of us made palm leaf branches. Then we played the Matthew 21 section of the Matthew DVD we own so that our kids could get a visual understanding of the story we had read. And finally, we acted it out.
I understand that neither egg hunts nor pretend donkey rides will really fulfill my dream. None of these things is enough. The Lord changing our children's hearts of stone to hearts of flesh is the only thing that is enough. As He awakens their hearts, minds, and spirits to His immense, immeasurable, wonderful LOVE, then they won't need all of these extra trappings to get them excited about Easter. But maybe as our kids see the excitement and joy that their mama and daddy have each year for Easter - just maybe - the Lord will be gracious to use our truly messed-up parenting to peak their interest in understanding the death and resurrection of Jesus on a personal level.
My favorite part of the Gospel accounts of Palm Sunday comes from Luke 19:39-40:
Some Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, "Teacher, make your disciples stop shouting!" But Jesus answered, "If they keep quiet, these stones will start shouting."
Oh Lord, let us and our children be counted among those stones!!
Happy Palm Sunday, everyone!