There are real contrasts in the story of Lent and Easter. Using these themes or images can help children see some of the meaning in the stories. You might simply point out the images when reading the Bible or you might use pictures or activities to deepen this aspect of Lent. You might want to choose one theme for this Lent and take another next year. Here are some themes/ images I have spotted.
Deserts and gardens: Jesus is in the hot, stony desert at the beginning of Lent and on Easter morning he is in a quiet, cool garden. Highlighting the desert and then the garden of the resurrection will help children see these contrasts clearly. You might use words when doing readings at story time to underline the contrast: hot, stony, dry and empty contrasts with cool, dew, lush, plants, full of life. Pictures of the desert and of gardens can be drawn or printed and used as a focus during prayer times. You might make a desert with sand and rocks in a box and make a garden on Good Friday or plant seeds, looked after during Lent which will be sprouting towards Holy week.
Sorrow and Joy: Looking at how Jesus and the disciples felt at different times during the story can develop the understanding of the undercurrents of these seasons. In the Ignatian spiritual exercises, when praying through the Passion, the person asks to feel sorrow at Christ’s sorrow. This is not something we own, but we walk with Our Lord in his suffering. At the resurrection what is asked for is joy with Christ in his joy. Again the joy is Christ’s not ours. Pointing out to children how people in the story (including Jesus) feel will help them understand something of this involvement in the story.
Sin and doing God’s will: This is also an aspect of Lent. The temptations in the wilderness show us the Son of God going through the same struggles we go through every day. Each time he chooses to do his Father’s will. There are some good materials from the Domestic Church website which help children focus on this aspect of Lent and which helps develop their awareness of their internal spiritual process.
Bread: This image is used in the story of the Temptations in the wilderness and at the Last Supper. It speaks about both the temptation to grab at creation, not recognising it as a gift from God and about Christ’s self-giving love, shown in the Last Supper and on the Cross. Making bread, including unleavened bread over Lent might help children think about both Jesus’ temptation and his offering of himself. When the bread is cooking you might ask, “How would it feel to smell cooking bread knowing you couldn’t have any?” You might want to look at different portrayals of this temptation in the wilderness and of the Last Supper in art or get the children to draw their own. After Easter this theme might be linked to the breaking of bread in the meal at Emmaus. (The Miracle Maker makes this connection very well.)
Your Own Theme: Notice when reading, praying, being in church which themes or images strike you. This maybe part of what God is teaching you this Lent but it might also be something you can share with your children or something that you note down for next year. This not only means that you and your children are sharing your Lent journey and that they are learning that God continues speaking to us as we get older but you may also find that your children share insights that deepen your own understanding, a little gift God has given them to help your walk through the desert.