Episode 39: Helping Our Family Celebrate Easter

In this episode we look at books about Easter for our kids and a couple for parents that will help us celebrate the gift of salvation Jesus gave us through His death and resurrection. 

Books Discussed in This Episode:

Transcript:

Welcome to “Books that Spark,” a podcast for parents and caregivers, celebrating books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion, leading to teachable moments with our kids.

I wanted to share some books with you today. I have gone through many, many, many books to find some really special books for Easter. And I did not look for books that have to do with the popular Easter of Easter eggs and bunnies. There are a million of those books as well, but I wanted to focus on really strong books about the biblical Easter story that are true to the Bible–that don’t take too many poetic licenses. And so I waded through several different books. These are the ones I highly recommend for sharing the Easter story with little children.

The first one is a Little Golden Book. It’s The Story of Easter by Jean Miller and illustrated by Jerry Smath. And that’s S-M-A-T-H. This is a very good retelling of the story of Easter from the biblical perspective. And the illustrations are more complete than a lot of children’s stories have. There’s a lot in each picture that shows the Roman soldiers in the background, shows the landscape of that area of the world. And I like that about this book. In the sense of the illustrations, it’s a much more thorough book sharing the story of Easter. So it gives a context to children who read this book.

Another very cute book is Little Dove and the Story of Easter. And it’s by Zondervan, as far as the author. Nadja Sarell is the illustrator. And this is a very cute little story with a dove as your narrator, who kind of is experiencing the Easter story and all that is around him. This one is for a younger child. It is a board book and is therefore not very graphic about the crucifixion or anything, but I think it’s well done.

And of course The Beginner’s Bible is really good for telling Bible stories, and they actually have a book that is just The Beginner’s Bible: The Very First Easter by Zondervan. And they’ve taken that portion of The Beginner’s Bible and put it just in one volume for the Easter story. And you can get this on Kindle right now for 99 cents or the paperback for 2.99. So it’s a really good deal, but this is, of course, a very nice retelling of the Easter story.

And another really cute board book is called The First Easter Day. This is a modern day story where little children are talking about what they would do if they had been alive during the time of Jesus’ resurrection. Let me read a section of this cute book to you. “We Celebrate at Easter time when Jesus rose again. I wonder what I would have done if I had lived back then. If I had been a bee, I would have zipped out of my hive and buzzed and buzzed to spread the news that Jesus is alive.” It has pictures of little children all the way through it, modern day children telling what they would do if they had been this animal or that animal during the time of Jesus. They would share that Jesus is alive. And so it’s very cute.

I’ve mentioned this one before. It was Twas the Morning of Easter is a recent book that came out in February from Glenys Nellist and illustrated by Elena Selivanova. This follows the model of Twas the Night before Christmas, except this was The Morning of Easter, and it’s the story of Mary Magdalene and her going to the tomb and finding it empty. And it’s really cute and very well done. It’s very beautiful in the illustrations.

And another version of the Easter story that is really well told is The Easter Story by Patricia Pingry, and this one is very well done. This one would be great for your younger children.

And then there is one more, very cute board book called The Story of Easter. And it’s by Thomas Nelson publishers. The artwork in this one is really cute. It’s like a cutout cartoon picture on top of more of a realistic background, but this one is great for zero to four year old children. And it tells the story very simply as a board book should. And so it’s a really nice book for introducing the whole concept of Easter to your younger children.

Some other books that I think are very unique that are nice for Easter season and celebrating Easter. We have The Donkey Who Carried a King by RC Sproul. This one is of course about from the donkey’s perspective of Jesus being carried on his back. The donkey’s name is Davey, and he was a young donkey and he was bored and unhappy because he was never given anything to do. And then he carries Jesus into Jerusalem. It’s just a cute story and something, a little different to share with your kids and make it kind of fun to look forward to Easter.

And another one that is along these same lines that is really adorable is Humphrey’s First Palm Sunday by Carol Heyer. And if you’ve read her Christmas story Humphrey’s First Christmas, this is a continuation of that story. I just love this book. It’s dealing with pride, and we, as human beings, struggle with pride all the time and Humphrey thinks he should be the head camel in the caravan. And then he sees Jesus. And in this story, he had given Jesus a blanket when he was born. Here’s Jesus riding on the donkey on that blanket. And so he knows that he has lived long enough to see that baby become a man and acknowledges that he is the savior at the end of the book. And it is so well done, really a very sweet story, a nicely done book.

And then one that I found that I think is my favorite of all of them is Jesus Is Risen: An Easter Pop-up Book by Agostino Traini. And it is just so pretty. The illustrations are very unique and it has the pop-up pictures, and it goes through the entire Easter story through to the Ascension. And it’s just well done. It’s vibrant, it’s pretty, it’s unique. And I think it would be so cool not just to read the story, but to have it sitting on a table. And as you’re going through the Easter season, you know, you could show different pages and have that pop-up standing up for the day or whatever in the middle of a table for the kids to see. One other thing that I have found that I want to get so badly for Easter is like our nativities at Christmas, they have an Easter scene that you can buy as well. And I think it always bothers me that we celebrate Christmas much more than we do Easter when Easter is the most important celebration anyone could ever have. And I want so much for us to be able to instill excitement and joy and anticipation in our kids’ lives, in preparation for Easter. We do it more for Christmas than we do for Easter. And I think that’s a shame. I think it’s sad. And so I think if we could get a resurrection scene or whatever you want to call it–an Easter scene, maybe that would work. Or if we use a pop-up book like this to share the Easter story with our kids. And like I was sharing at Lent, the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday, that we can use an Easter tree to recount the Bible stories, leading up to Jesus’ resurrection and his genealogy and all the stories and all the history of the plan of God throughout the Bible is. So whatever we can do, whatever you choose to do as a tradition for your family to help reiterate the Easter story with your family, with your children, and to instill an anticipation and excitement for celebrating the resurrection, I think is wonderful. And so whether you do an Easter tree, whether you color Easter eggs or do the resurrection eggs, or set up a resurrection scene or share stories throughout the Lent season, I think whatever we can do is great to help build a sense of family tradition and anticipation and celebration for the Easter season.

Now, you know, I cannot leave without sharing some books that I think would be great for us to read as parents as well. This one, I really like because I love monologues for Easter and adding them to the worship time in our churches. And if you go to my webpage at TerrieHellardBrown.com, you’ll find several of these monologues and they’re free for you to download and use. I have tried to stay true to scripture. I’ve added a little here and there of what I would think would be the person’s attitude and reaction to what they saw and what happened. So please feel free to look at those and to download those and use them for Easter in your church or in your home worship. And even just dramatic readings of them could be very meaningful to your family. There’s this great little book called The Characters of Easter: The Villains, Heroes, Cowards, and Crooks Who Witnessed History’s Biggest Miracle. And it did come out this year in February, and it is written by Daniel Darling narrated by Tim Mullins if you get the audio. He’s the one who also wrote The Characters of Christmas, but I love this book. I love the way he has written for each character in the Easter story. Well, let me just read an excerpt from this book. So these are not really monologues as much as they are just the stories of each character. The files on my website are actual monologues and dialogues between characters for the Easter story. So this says, “When Jesus met Simon, he wasn’t the Peter we know–the Saint after whom children in churches and cities are named. He was Simon and he wasn’t exactly looking for Jesus. Instead he was busy plying his trade as a commercial fishermen on the shores of Lake Geneseret. Simon and his brother Andrew were part of a fishing collective with another set of brothers, James and John. The Galilee shores were all the brothers knew having grown up in Bethsaida on the Northwest shore. By all accounts, Simon was thriving in Capernaum, making a living, bringing fish to the market to be sold locally or shipped to Damascus via the Roman highway and exported to ports across the Roman empire, along the Mediterranean. He owned a home and was married we find in Luke 4:38-39. It doesn’t seem like Simon was either rich or poor, but managing a decent life. Like most of us, an ordinary person in an ordinary place in what he assumed was an ordinary time. Jesus spent much of his ministry in Galilee. These were his people, blunt, salt-of-the-earth, and hardworking. Galileans didn’t much care for the elite sophisticates in Jerusalem. And the elites returned the scorn. A son of Nazareth in the Southwest part of the Galilee region, Jesus made Capernaum his base of operation. Just as God chose a humble place, Bethlehem for the entrance of Jesus into the world. So the master craftsman shows to build his new movement from the raw and rugged people of Galilee. This is not where you would typically recruit if you were building a movement that would shake the world, but Christ often draws his disciples from out of the way places.”

So I really like the way he talks about the leading into the story. And then he talks about when Jesus met Peter and goes through the rest of Peter’s story. This book recounts the story of the people in the Easter story and how God used their lives to change the world.

Another great book that you might enjoy is Preparing for Easter: 50 Devotional Readings from CS Lewis, by CS Lewis. And he’s one of my favorite authors of all time. And so I love reading what he has to say. And these devotionals do not disappoint. They will make you think and make you dig deep into the meaning of Easter and what God has done and how he sees our hearts and changes our hearts and what it really means to experience Christ in our lives. Of course, CS Lewis is not an easy read. It’s not going to be just a quick in and out read. And this would be one that would be great to use starting with Ash Wednesday and going through Easter Sunday. These are just really beautiful devotionals by CS Lewis. As we come to the end of Lent and the different things we’re doing to lead into the Easter season, and as we come to the Holy week and really anticipate Easter Sunday and prepare our hearts for that celebration, as we observe Good Friday and remember the death of Christ and his sacrifice for us, this time should be such a time that we can remember that we can like Mary and sit at Jesus’ feet and learn from him and let the Holy spirit just speak to our hearts and help us to return to our first love–to our first moments of complete gratitude and awe of God’s sacrifice and gift to us as believers and the change he brought in our lives.

I always think it’s interesting. I became a Christian when I was seven. And I always thought, you know, I would hear testimonies of people who had come out of a terrible past and God had rescued them from the brink of death, quite literally. Sometimes they had such fantastic testimonies and mine was just a very simple testimony. I knew I needed a savior and I learned about Jesus and I opened my heart to him and he radically changed my life. And I have tried with all my heart to follow him throughout my life. And of course I haven’t done it perfectly by any stretch of the imagination. But as I was sharing with someone the other day, our faith only needs to be the size of a mustard seed. And even that mustard seed faith, I believe comes from God. He gives us the ability to trust him. He does the changing. He does the salvation. He does the calling, the drawing, the teaching, everything, every aspect of salvation. He does that in our lives, and we simply choose to obey. We simply choose to follow. It just amazes me how abundantly gracious our father is that he has provided a way for us to come into his presence boldly, without fear with thanksgiving and rejoicing. He calls us his friends. He calls us his children. He calls us his church, and what a privilege to be one of his people, a Holy nation, a Holy priesthood of believers that God has called and appointed for such a time as this. We are here and we have such a gift that he has given us that we have got to share with first our children and second with the world and go to all the parts of the earth to share the good news of Jesus Christ.

How can we be silent? The Bible tells us if we are silent, the rocks will cry out praise to God. We cannot be silent. We cannot be intimidated or fearful. We’ve got to stand up and share the wonderful, good news of Christ. And this Easter, I pray with all my heart that people will return to church, that people who don’t go to church would tune in somewhere and hear the message of Easter. And that more people would be reached this Easter than have ever been reached before with the gospel of Jesus Christ. I pray that lives are changed radically during this Easter season, that there are people around the world who make a decision to follow Christ with all their hearts and that they will not waiver from the truth of God’s word. I was thinking today earlier, how we can get so bogged down by the negativity of politics or culture or whatever is happening in our world and the terrible things that are happening in other places right now, where people are just being murdered on the streets by troops, going through the streets and the sadness of all the things that are happening around the world personally and publicly for people.

And then I also realized everywhere I look, I see God’s fingerprints everywhere I look. I hear his voice through his word, through the Holy spirit. He is with us everywhere we go. The other day, a friend was preaching and he shared how God is in whatever place we go, and he can make even darkness light. And that just hit me so strongly that he can make darkness light. So wherever we are, even if it is a very dark place, with Christ it can be light. And that is a miracle of God and the Holy Spirit at work. That is a miracle of his presence in our lives and through us and around us that he is real. And he can make a difference in our world, whether we’re talking about our small world of our own home and family, or we’re talking about the world, even as a whole, the entire earth, God can make a difference. His light can shine through and we can help be salt and light in that world that needs salt and light. I just pray that we can be bold and strong and courageous and follow in the footsteps of Jesus and do what he has called us to do. I pray that we will not shrink away out of fear or insecurity or uncertainty, but that we will continue to live by faith and to be strong in the Lord, regardless of the circumstances. This Easter, I want to celebrate this wonderful gift, this wonderful life that God has given us, and not to take it for granted and not have just another Easter. As a pastor’s wife, sometimes it’s easy to just, you know, you just can’t wait until Easter is over sometimes because you’re so tired with all that’s going on. But one Easter we had, for the whole Easter week, we had activities and events and different things going on at the church for the entire week. We had a walk through event where people could walk through and experience the different stations of the cross. That was a very busy, busy Easter, but it was one of the most rewarding, wonderful Easters I’ve ever had. We had a Passover meal, we had a time of foot washing and communion. It just was so wonderful. And I think as we celebrate and worship the Lord, and we’re not just busy doing something because it’s that time of year and we’re supposed to be busy doing something, but we’re doing things that are meaningful to our hearts and lives that that help us to hold fast to God and to his plan for our lives, that it can make such a difference for us that this can be a season of worship. Like we’ve never experienced before of communion with God in a very real sense, and that we can humble ourselves before God and cry out to him to heal our land, this Easter.

You know, we, we talk a lot about how much God loves us. And we talk a lot about remembering the stories of faith, remembering the people in the stories of faith throughout the scriptures. Yet what God has told us to remember is his sacrifice and resurrection. He’s told us to remember what he did for us and this Easter. I hope that that’s what we do, that we remember what Christ did for us and for all mankind, for those who would just receive it, what an awesome blessing it is to not only be free to worship, but to be able to know the God we worship as a personal savior and a personal friend and a guide through this very uncertain life that we live. I hope with all my heart, that we can tell our kids, these stories and that they can sense in us, the joy and the deep longing. We have to know our savior, even more, the deep desire we have to walk in obedience to him every day of our lives and the deep grief we experience when we fail. And the deep grief we experience when we fail him, may the seeds we plant in the hearts of our children take root and grow deep and blossom and help them to experience God for themselves.

For our devotional today, I want to share again from Hope for Each Day by Billy Graham. This is from March 27th, and it says, “The best thing about Easter, Luke 24:6, ‘He is not here, but has risen.’ What do you like best about Easter? Is it egg hunts baskets filled with candy, new clothes, sweet baby animals are beautiful. Daffodils and lilies. Easter Sunday is the happiest day on the calendar of the church. And it should be for many people. Jesus’ resurrection is symbolized by all the traditions of Easter, the signs of spring, new clothes, egg hunts, and Easter baskets. But the best thing about Easter is the news that Jesus is alive. That’s the message that makes our faith different from all other religions. The Angel’s message is true. He is not here, but has risen. And now God’s promises for you. ‘If You confess with your mouth, the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart, that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved.’ Romans 10:9.”

Thank you for joining us for “Books that Spark,” a podcast, celebrating books, that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussions. I hope these books inspire you and your children. And I hope they bless you this Easter season. I hope they open up many wonderful conversations with the children in your life. Remember, you’re free to go to my website, TerrieHellardBrown.com. Download any of the materials there. When you sign up for my mailing list, you get access to other free materials that are only available to those on my mailing list.

Your Host:

Terrie Hellard-Brown writes and speaks to help children and adults find God’s purpose and plan for their lives. She teaches workshops and writes devotional books, children’s stories, and Christian education materials.

Her podcast, Books that Spark, reviews children’s books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion leading to teachable moments with our kids. Her podcast posts each Tuesday morning.

Her blog posts are published each Thursday and discuss living as a disciple of Christ while discipling our children. She challenges us to step out of our comfort zones to walk by faith in obedience to Christ.

For more information, visit her website at terriehellardbrown.com

Terrie uses her experiences as a mother of four (three on “the spectrum”), 37 years in ministry (15 in Taiwan), and 32 years teaching to speak to the hearts of readers.

Her motto is “Growing older is inevitable; growing up is optional” and keeps her childlike joy by writing children’s stories, delighting over pink dolphins, and frequently laughing till it hurts.

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