Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Easter Story

Between the lines: explaining Easter's message to children

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 April, 2014, 10:45am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 April, 2014, 10:45am

To me, Easter is all about children's games, arts and crafts. This year's activities included making Easter bonnets, egg decorating, and countless egg hunts. My children, on the other hand, are fixated with the Crucifixion. They chat about Jesus dying on the cross, which leads them to sing in unison a song with an upbeat tempo about the Crucifixion. Next thing I know, I overhear them continue with other dead people.
Little sister: "A cross means heaven. Yeye [Grandpa] is in heaven, so Yeye died on the cross."
Big sister: "No, Yeye died in the hospital."
Little sister: "Oh."
This sobering talk makes the overflowing bag full of colourful giant chocolate eggs and bunnies that I have stockpiled in the closet seem somehow sinful and indecent.
Children are fascinated with the Crucifixion because they only contemplate Jesus the man, rather than Jesus the Messiah. Thus they wonder about the physical pain of being nailed to a cross and they try to find answers to why people were so mean to Jesus.
For child-friendly depictions of the gruesome Crucifixion, there are two wonderful books, both titled The Easter Story.
Gennady Spirin's The Easter Story elegantly portrays the events leading up to and following the Crucifixion. Spirin's dignified illustrations are in obvious contrast to Easter picture books about bunnies and eggs.
Brian Wildsmith is an award-winning illustrator whose version of The Easter Story uses vivid metallic colours. The story is adapted for young children, and is further simplified by telling the tale from the perspective of the donkey that carries Jesus through the streets on Palm Sunday.
Wildsmith is one of England's best known children's illustrators. A Christmas Story is a good companion book to The Easter Story. And his new Illustrated Bible Stories will be published later this month.
Ali Thompson, editor of a Sunday school periodical, used an innovative way to explain to kids the significance of Jesus's sacrifice. She asked her children to write on sticky notes things that they have done wrong, and then to stick the notes on themselves. Each time the children placed a sticky note on themselves, Thompson quickly took that sticky note and stuck it on her own body. In this way, she was able to demonstrate how Jesus took on sins.
For a secular celebration of Easter, The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes is a classic story by DuBose Heyward and illustrated by Marjorie Flack. While the overconfident male rabbits expect one of their own to be named Easter Bunny, wise Grandfather Bunny grants the honour to a kind-hearted country rabbit who has grown up to be a hard-working and humble mother of almost two dozen bunnies. I was astonished to learn that this story which encourages girls to grow up and follow their dreams was first published in 1939.
Annie Ho is board chairwoman of Bring Me a Book Hong Kong, a non-profit organisation dedicated to improving children's literacy by reading aloud to them. Visit bringmeabook.org.hk

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