The Thistle - An E-Newsletter of Scotch College, Perth, Western Australia

Parental Guidance Recommended at Easter

"So, you remember Jesus who was born at Christmas?

Baby Jesus in the manger?

Yes, well, he died at Easter.

Oh no! What happened?

Some people didn't like what he was saying about God and love, so they killed him by nailing him to a wooden cross. No, don't cry because it's okay! He came back to life again and that's why we have hot cross buns and Easter eggs.

Is he still alive?

Sort of… I tell you what, just eat your chocolate bunny and we'll talk about it next year."

My first conversation about Easter with my five-year-old son was not quite that bad, but it certainly was not one of my better Religious Education lessons. Easter is tricky!

As parents of young children, how do you begin to explain that the holy birth we were celebrating with shepherds and angels just four months ago, ended with an unfair trial and a bloody, public execution? And that is just Good Friday. How can you talk about resurrection with children who have not yet grasped the concept of death?

It is certainly no time to be introducing theological notions of justification or reconciliation. Belief that God so loved the world that he was willing to sacrifice his son and that Jesus died to save us from our sins may be foundational to Christian doctrine, but it does nothing to soften the horrific reality of death by crucifixion.

Picture books and YouTube clips are not much help either and Easter movies are rarely suitable for young viewers. It is hardly surprising then that many parents choose the "G" rated Easter Bunny Story over the "M" rated conclusion to the Jesus saga.

So how can you tell the real Easter story to children without terrifying them? The best advice I have received is to let your child's age and sensitivity take the lead. Generally, preschoolers do not ask and do not need to know the specifics of Jesus' death. It is enough to say that Jesus died and then came back to life to show us that he was God's son and that there is life after death. Allegories like The Story of the Dragonfly are helpful (see here) in discussing death and after life with younger children.

An older child might ask how and why Jesus died. At some stage, you have to discuss the cross as a brutal and ancient form of execution. Again, it is best to keep your answers general at first and gradually become more specific. Over time, your Easter discussions may increase in intensity and realism, but it is important not to lose the message in the detail. It was fear and hate that killed Jesus and God's love that resurrected him to life, and God loves you too.

An excellent allegory of Christ's resurrection is to be found in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis (recommended for children from about Year 3 onwards). When the Lion, Aslan, is executed and then restored to life, he explains the meaning of his resurrection:

" "It means," said Aslan, "that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of Time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor's stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards."

Let us not take the magic away from our children too quickly. Even the Easter Bunny has his place.

Good luck with the story telling and blessings this Easter.