Ash Wednesday begins 46 days before Easter and signals the start of the Lenten season. For many Christians, Lent is a time to contemplate the significance of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross and his resurrection on Easter. Many Catholic and Protestant churches have special services on Ash Wednesday. Childrens’ activities could include ashes on the forehead as many adult receive, in addition to activities that explain the meaning of Lent and Ash Wednesday.
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Ashes of Sorrow
The palm branches of last year’s Palm Sunday become the ashes used on the following year’s Ash Wednesday. A paste of the ashes is made by adding a little few drops of water and one drop of oil. Your child can help mix the ashes with the water and oil. Explain that according to the Bible, Jesus was baptized in water and, after his resurrection, he commanded that all believers be baptized. Oil was a symbol of blessing and anointing, so the oil in this represents God’s blessing on mankind through Jesus’ sacrifice and the anointing to service as believers. Discuss the Biblical account of Christ's crucifixion, where many of those who shouted for Jesus on Palm Sunday abandoned him when he was arrested and crucified.
In the Old Testament, leaven or yeast was a symbol of sin. In the Jewish faith, before Passover, the house is swept clean of leaven to represent the renouncing of sin before the sacrifice of the Passover Lamb, a forerunner of Jesus. Lent is a period where Christians prepare their hearts for Easter by renouncing sin. Your child can use a feather to dust her heart to remind her not to sin. Use a regular yeast bread recipe to make bread with your child. Demonstrate how yeast makes the bread rise, just as sin can give rise to negative consequences.
For Christians, Jesus was the ultimate sacrificial lamb, giving his life so that the sins of the world could be forgiven and mankind reconciled to God. Lent is usually marked by sacrificing something the believer enjoys to make way for more prayer time, service time and the economic savings can be given as alms. Ask your child, “What are you willing to give up for Lent to show you understand Jesus’ sacrifice? We fast one meal today and begin the Lenten sacrifice.” Explain the sacrifice must be something important, just as Jesus’ death was important. Pray together that God will use Ash Wednesday and Lent to make your faith practices more significant.
Lenten activities often include service to others, as Jesus served others. On Ash Wednesday, you can choose a service project to do together, such as taking food to a food pantry, packaging up hygiene items for distribution at a local homeless shelter or donating outgrown clothing to a local shelter. Remind your child, “Jesus tells us to serve others, which makes a positive difference in the lives of others.”